Matthieu Pigasse, the long-time leader of France for Lazard and co-owner of the Le Monde newspaper, has resigned from the financial advisory and asset management firm.
Rumors had swirled for weeks that Pigasse would join a competing boutique firm that wanted to start an office in Paris. However, he said he would start his own venture.
“Lazard in France has an unmatched franchise, with strong momentum. I am excited to begin my next chapter beyond investment banking in a new entrepreneurial project. "Said Pigasse.
Mr Pigasse, 51, is a punk rock aficionado and self-styled enfant terrible from France's close-knit financial world. He has advised some of the country's largest companies, including Carrefour, Sanofi, L'Oréal and Danone, and gained a reputation advising on debt restructuring for Iraq, Ecuador, Argentina, Cyprus and Greece.
The departure of Mr Pigasse, perhaps Lazard's best-known rainmaker, is a blow to the foremost M&A consulting firm, whose fortunes have plummeted this year as the contract market has subsided and competition has risen from upstart stores.
He was abolished in May as Global Chief of Banking and Vice President of Lazard's Global Economic Advisory Unit. The company has seen several management changes this year. Earlier this year, Peter Orszag, former Obama Secretary of State, was named new chief executive of Lazard's economic advisory group, a move that seemed to indicate he was hired to replace longtime CEO and chairman Ken Jacobs.
"I admire and respect Matthieu Pigasse for all he has done for our customers and our global franchise," Jacobs said in a statement.
Mr Pigasse's resignation follows a week of speculation that he was leaving to start the France office for another retail bank, either Evercore or Centerview Partners. However, Mr Pigasse said he started a new venture outside investment banking.
Bankers in the Lazard Paris office, concerned about the loss of Pigasse's deep client book, expressed relief that the uncertainty that hung over them had ended. Senior bankers in Paris were called to the office for a meeting Sunday night.
Paris, with 1
A handful of younger Lazard bankers recently left office in Paris, and Mr. Pigasse's departure will surely embolden rivals to challenge the market position of the firm whose business in France traces back to the 19th century.
Mr. Pigasse studied at France's Ecole Nationale d & # 39; Administration, the country's training ground for the political elite, and then had an impression in politics that served two finance ministers. He was state adviser to Dominique Strauss-Kahn between 1998 and 1999 and chief of staff to Laurent Fabius between 2000 and 2002.
Mr. Pigasse once aspired to be president of France, Alain Minc, an adviser, told Vanity Fair in a 2018 -profile. Instead, this path was taken by another of Mr. Minc's proteges: Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker at Lazard's arch rival Rothschild.
Mr. Pigasse went into business in 2002 when Fabius's Socialist government lost the election, and 32 years old became the youngest-ever partner in Lazard.
He has been an active investor in the media sector. Alongside telecommunications billionaire Xavier Niel and the late French businessman Pierre Bergé, he helped save the Le Monde group, which owns France's left-handed daily newspaper and was on the verge of bankruptcy.
A year ago, Mr Pigasse sent shock waves through the French establishment and coincided with his business partner, Niel, when he unexpectedly announced that he was selling part of his stake in Le Monde to Czech energy billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. This aroused concern among newspaper journalists, staff, readers and founders that Le Monde's editorial independence would be compromised.
Last month, Le Monde announced that Mr Niel and Mr Pigasse had signed an agreement giving the group the right to refuse any new controlling shareholder in Le Monde.
Additional reporting by Arash Massoudi in London