Corporate Raider, Donor Passes Away

Bruce J. Wasserstein—a graduate of the Harvard Business and Law Schools who led financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard and gained fame as a pioneer of hostile takeovers in business—died Wednesday in New York City.

Administrators from both of his alma maters fondly remembered his connections to the University.

“In addition to being a legendary Wall Street figure, Bruce Wasserstein was also a dedicated and valued member of the Harvard Community and a wonderful example of the far reaching impact Harvard Business School alumni have made in the business world and beyond,” wrote Jay O. Light, dean of the Business School, in an e-mailed statement.

At the Law School, Wasserstein was a longtime member of the Dean’s Advisory Board and donated $25 million two years ago for the construction of a major academic and student center in the North Yard.

Wasserstein’s death comes just weeks after that of another HLS philanthropist—Finn M.W. Caspersen, who donated over $30 million to the Law School and chaired its $476 million capital campaign last year.

“All of us at Harvard Law School are stunned and saddened by the unexpected passing of Bruce Wasserstein, one of our most prominent and influential alumni,” wrote Steven Oliveira, associate dean for development and alumni relations at the Law School, in an e-mailed statement to The Crimson. “As one of the largest benefactors in HLS’ history, Mr. Wasserstein had a transformational impact on past, current, and future students.”

Although he began his career as a lawyer at the prestigious firm of Cravath, Swain & Moore, Wasserstein eventually went into banking. When he joined the investment bank First Boston, he helped build the firm into one of the most prominent mergers and acquisitions establishments of the 1980s, according to media reports.

By 1988, Wasserstein—in conjunction with his partner Joseph Perella of First Boston—created Wasserstein Perella & Co., a smaller investment bank that was eventually sold in 2000 for around $1.4 billion.

Since the sale, Wasserstein worked on several notable deals, including Carl Icahn’s now-famous attempted take-over of AOL Time Warner.

But Wasserstein also had an unusual side interest for a man with a financial career—journalism. In 2004, he purchased New York Magazine, which tracks the key players of Manhattan life each week.

Many have wondered whether Wasserstein’s death will cause the magazine to be sold, but most speculation seems to have focused on his replacement as owner.

A Wasserstein family trust owns New York Magazine, and media observers have posited that Wasserstein’s children may now decide to control the magazine rather than sell it.

Of the Wasserstein children, Pamela S. Wasserstein ’00, Ben C. Wasserstein ’03, and A. Scoop Wasserstein ’07 all contributed to The Crimson in their years at Harvard, and Ben C. Wasserstein ’03 edited Fifteen Minutes, The Crimson’s weekly magazine.

Wasserstein is survived by his current wife, Angela Chao, and his seven children, one of whom is the adopted child of his late sister, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who died of lymphoma in 2006.

According to a statement issued by Lazard, the cause of death has not yet been determined, although Wasserstein had been hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat a few days earlier.

—Staff writer James K. McAuley can be reached at mcauley@fas.harvard.edu.

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