The longtime head of boutique investment banking firm Lazard, David-Weill left the firm in 2005.
The great-grandson of Alexander Weill, who assumed control of Lazard in 1880, it was inevitable that Michel would join the fabled financial firm. Raised in New York and educated in France, David-Weill joined the firm's Paris "house" in 1956. (Lazard used to have three "houses"—New York, Paris and London—which were operated independently from one another.) He later transitioned to the New York office and became senior partner in 1977, taking over from the legendary André Meyer, who had cemented Lazard's reputation as the premiere M&A firm in the world. But by the late 1990s, the firm was in a tailspin. Michel's tight grip had alienated star bankers like Felix Rohatyn and Steve Rattner, and his efforts to right the ship (merging the three offices, elevating Bill Loomis to CEO) did little to inspire confidence.
In 2001, David-Weill turned to Bruce Wasserstein amid hopes the hard-charging, no-nonsense Brooklyn native could revive the last of Wall Street's great private partnerships. Unfortunately for Michel, Wasserstein had other plans. He hired a slew of big name (and pricey) bankers, upgraded the offices, and made it clear he wanted to expand the firm and take it public. The old-fashioned and exceedingly controlling Weill had no interest in altering the firm's partnership structure and a messy battle for control ensued. In the end, Wasserstein outplayed Weill and moved forward with his plan, using the proceeds from the IPO to buy David-Weill out. Largely retired these days, David-Weill occupies his time tending to philanthropic causes and sitting on various boards.
For the record
David-Weill's downfall is documented in former Lazard banker William Cohan's 2007 book The Last Tycoons.
David-Weill sits on the board of trustees of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Metropolitan Museum, along with Leon Black, Henry Kissinger, Bill Rudin, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr., and Michael Bloomberg.
Michel is married to Helene David-Weill; they have four children. The couple lives in Bill Paley's former apartment at 820 Fifth Avenue, which is decorated with renaissance paintings, old masters and medieval art. (Neighbors in the building include gallerist Bill Acquavella, Goldman Sachs' Jack Levy, and social doyenne Jayne Wrightsman.) They also have a chateau-like mansion in Locust Valley and a summer villa in Cap d'Antibes, France.
In the mid-1990s, David-Weill's heir apparent was Edouard Stern, the heir to a banking fortune and the husband of David-Weill's daughter, Beatrice. Like many people who worked under Michel, he eventually grew frustrated and quit the firm in 1997. In 2005, Stern was found shot dead in his Geneva penthouse wearing a latex body suit. His young dominatrix girlfriend later confessed to shooting him during an S&M session gone wrong.