cover image The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frres & Co.

The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frres & Co.

William D. Cohan, . . Doubleday, $29.95 (742pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51451-4

This astute if not entirely cohesive debut account from investigative journalist and former banker Cohan chronicles the long metamorphosis of Lazard Frères. Converted from a private partnership to a diversified, publicly traded company in 2005, it was the last great American investment bank to do so. That story intertwines with the career of Felix Rohatyn, Lazard's most famous and influential banker. Readers expecting a comprehensive financial history in the style of Ron Chernow (The House of Morgan ) will find the firm's history from its founding as a New Orleans dry goods retailer in 1848 to the early 1960s covered in only two of the 21 chapters. Cohan discusses the following quarter century in more detail, but concentrates almost exclusively on Rohatyn and draws on the general business press. The chapters on the last 20 years contain fascinating and novel information, and rely extensively on the author's personal recollections (he worked at Lazard for six years) and interviews with associates, many of whom remain undisclosed. The result is three incompletely integrated works: a competent history of Lazard, a well-written biography of Rohatyn and an exciting insider's account of Wall Street infighting. (Apr.)