June 1, 2023

La Ronge Northerner

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Lazard appoints Peter Orszaj as CEO

Investment bank Lazard has named Peter Orszaj as its next CEO and entrusted the former adviser to US President Barack Obama with reviving its fortunes amid a downturn in deal-making.

Orszag, who joined Lazard in 2016 and leads its financial advisory business, will take over from longtime CEO Ken Jacobs in October. Jacobs will become CEO and continue to advise clients.

The promotion caps a rapid rise for Orszag, who came to finance late in his career after serving as a senior economic advisor in the Obama administration, including as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Orszag took over the first position after Lazard, which has hubs in New York, London and Paris, reported a loss in the first quarter and announced plans to cut about 300 jobs, or roughly 10 percent of its staff.

In addition to a dearth of mergers and acquisitions, Lazard has had to contend with increased competition from newer companies like Centerview Partners, Evercore and PJT Partners, a trio of companies that have found success since the global financial crisis.

Shares in Lazard, which also has an asset management business, are down nearly 50 percent from their 2021 peak.

In a note to Lazard employees seen by the Financial Times, Orszag told staff he hopes to combine the prestige of an investment bank with a modern approach to advising clients and managing money.

“We must aim even higher: our ambition must be to become the preeminent independent, global leader and destination in all aspects of complex corporate finance, investment and strategic decision-making… Success requires us to embrace innovation and risk-taking.”

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As head of the bank’s financial services business, Orszag has been executing operations in an effort to better deploy resources as well as gauge success in a company that has historically given top bankers ample latitude to operate.

Since joining Lazard after a stint at Citigroup, Orszag has worked frequently with clients in healthcare and the life sciences, where he can draw on his academic background and knowledge of social policy.

Recently, he advised First Republic Bank’s board of directors when it sought to raise capital and then sell itself amid a slow-moving influx of its deposits.

But unrest among US regional banks has helped stifle deal-making, along with fears of a recession, a jump in financing costs and tougher antitrust enforcement from the Joe Biden administration.

Orszag remains close to several prominent former Democratic policymakers including Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, and Jason Furman.