Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prominent Black Wall Street Investment Banker Dies Premier Black Investment Banker Worked with St. Louis Comptroller

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prominent Black Wall Street Investment Banker Dies Premier Black Investment Banker Worked with St. Louis Comptroller

Article excerpt

By most appearances, Wardell Lazard had it all: a trailblazing career on Wall Street, a $750,000 house in a New Jersey suburb and a rising profile as one of the nation's most successful minority businessmen.

Now, the future of his investment banking firm is uncertain. Two days ago in Pittsburgh, Lazard, 44, was found naked in his hotel room bed, a white powdery substance and a nearly empty bottle of vodka nearby. An autopsy report is pending, but Lazard had a previous brush with drugs: In 1991 he overdosed on cocaine, police in New Jersey said Thursday.

"We're trying to put together all the pieces, but it's a puzzle," said Kenneth Glover, vice chairman at W.R. Lazard & Co., the company Lazard founded. He said Lazard "took such a hard line against that kind of behavior."

The revelation is only the latest instance of a Wall Street star becoming enmeshed with drugs. Recently, Lawrence Kudlow resigned from his post as chief economist at Bear, Stearns & Co. after fighting various addictions for more than a year.

Lazard's death shocked New York's tightly knit community of minority businesspeople. "I still don't want to believe it," said Harlem power broker Percy Sutton, chairman of Inner City Broadcasting Co. "He had everything going for him. He is one of those people who didn't just make it - he came back to say hello and help those who had not yet crossed the bridge."

After facing financial ruin a few years ago and the subsequent departure of several key employees, Lazard turned around his firm. With a $2.7 billion portfolio, it is now Wall Street's largest black-owned money-management firm.

W.R. Lazard, which on Thursday named Vice Chairman Melvin Eubanks to succeed Lazard as chairman and chief executive, was started in 1985 when Lazard left Salomon Bros., one of Wall Street's most prestigious firms.

Seeking to avoid discrimination lawsuits, many government agencies were increasingly awarding minority-owned financial firms a piece of the lucrative market for underwriting bond offerings. …

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