Business leader Bruce Wasserstein was the 2007 recipient of the Great Negotiator Award given by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. As a graduate of Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, he has helped arrange more than a thousand transactions worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is currently the Chairman and CEO of Lazard, an international financial advisory and asset management firm. With over three decades of experience as a lawyer and banker on Wall Street and as a reputable leader in negotiations in the mergers and acquisitions and investment banking industries, Wasserstein is known as a consummate dealmaker in his profession. On Monday, April 23, he was recognized as the award’s seventh recipient.
Wasserstein started his career as a Cravath, Swaine & Moore attorney. Enabled by his ability to negotiate skillfully in complex, high-stake situations, he later became co-head of investment banking at First Boston Corporation. Subsequently forming the investment bank boutique Wasserstein Perella & Co., which he sold in 2000 to Germany’s Dresdner bank, he became Executive Chairman at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. Shortly thereafter, he became head of Lazard in January 2002. Wasserstein is also Chairman of Wasserstein & Co., LP, a private equity and investment firm. The firm’s purchase of New York Magazine in 2004 is among Wasserstein’s recent and notable acquisitions.
Besides his significant contributions to negotiation in the business world, Wasserstein is also the author of four books: The Closed Enterprise System: Ralph Nader’s Study Group on Antitrust Enforcement; With Justice for Some: An Indictment of the Law by Young Advocates, Corporate Finance Law, and Big Deal: The Battle for the Control of America’s Leading Corporations (and the second edition: Big Deal: Mergers and Acquisitions in the Digital Age). Wasserstein’s books and business negotiations also reflect his creativity and flexibility in coping with larger social changes such as globalization and technological advances. In 1972, Wasserstein was also a Knox Traveling Fellow at Cambridge University and earned a graduate diploma in Comparative Legal Studies in Economic Regulation. He has served as a member of the Visiting Committees of Harvard Law School, the University of Michigan, Columbia Journalism School, and as a member of the SEC’s Advisory Committee on Tender Offers.
Wasserstein was honored by members of the Harvard community and invited guests on April 23 at the Fogg Art Museum. Prior to the evening reception, he participated in a special private session with Harvard Business School students and Harvard Law School students who have been studying significant business deals managed by Wasserstein as part of a course called “Deal Setup, Design & Implementation.” Wasserstein’s “willingness to work with students to analyze what he has done as a negotiator will make a great contribution to the case materials that we use,” says Susan Hackley, Managing Director of PON. His visitation to Harvard Law School is not unusual, however. This fall he visited a course on mergers, acquisitions and split-ups taught by former HLS Dean Robert Clark ’72 to answer the questions of a large crowd of students and faculty.
In addition to these events, there was also a discussion with Wasserstein, which was open to the entire Harvard community, on Monday afternoon, April 23, at Harvard Law School.
The Program on Negotiation (PON), founded in 1983, created the Great Negotiator Award in 2000 to recognize an individual whose lifetime achievements in the field of negotiation and dispute resolution have had a significant and lasting impact. Composed of a network of faculty and scholars dedicated to developing the theory and practice of negotiation and dispute resolution from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and other Boston-area schools, PON has recognized a diverse cast of distinguished negotiators from their respective fields: Sadako Ogata, former United Nations high commissioner for refugees (2005); Richard Holbrooke, former United States ambassador to the United Nations (2004); Stuart Eizenstat, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union (2003); Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations’ special envoy for Afghanistan (2002); Charlene Barshefsky, U.S. trade representative in the second Clinton administration (2001); and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell for his work in Northern Ireland (2000).