Thursday, January 24, 2008

Last Tycoons by William Cohan

I finally finished The Last Tycoons which promised to be The Secret History of Lazard Freres and Co as well as A Tale of Unrestrained Ambition, Billion Dollar Fortunes, Byzantine Power Struggles, and Hidden Scandal. In general, I found it to be rather dry but spiced up in parts with the usual salacious details about extra marital affairs and descriptions of mansions, penthouses and gargantuan apartments. I also found the internal Lazard memos particularly those by Bill Loomis to be interesting.
1. The book doesn't quite reveal what is so special about the Lazard advice given by Felix Rohatyn, in other words, what made Lazard M&A advice so much different from the other investment bankers.
2. A list of characters with short descriptions as an appendix would have been nice.
3. The narrative was a little choppy because the author chose to relate the history of Lazard according to episodes e.g. ITT-Hartford merger, Felix Rohatyn, etc. rather than chronologically.
4. There is in some sense that books like these should have the obligatory photographic plates of the players in the middle of the book. This was something I missed.
5. No doubt that the author intended this to be the most comprehensive (recent) history of Lazard replete with footnotes and source information. I liked looking at some of these. (For instance, sometimes I'd read something and think: How can he know this? And it would be sourced either as an interview or from a secondary source.)
6. A family tree as well as a chart of the interlinked Lazard companies and all the holdings of various interested parties e.g. Eurazeo, etc. would also have been nice.
7. I was surprised to discover that a lot of working in investment banking sounded like working in a law firm. (Not that I have any experience in either.)

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