Lazard Freres & Co., the venerable New York investment house, has lured power broker Vernon Jordan from Washington to Wall Street. Jordan joined the firm January 1 as a senior managing partner.
Since 1982, Jordan, 64, has been a senior partner at the Washington law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld L.L.C., where he has provided political advice to a slew of corporate clients. The consummate Washington insider-regarded as one of the nation’s most influential African American men-will continue as a member of the firm on an of-counsel basis.
The past year or so has been tumultuous for both Jordan and Lazard. As one of Bill Clinton’s inner circle, Jordan found himself in the middle of the president’s impeachment problems, defending the role he played in Monica Lewinsky’s New York job search. At the same time, Lazard underwent a major reorganization following defections by some of its most influential senior partners and a decision to merge its London and New York houses. Conventional wisdom is that the company needs a rainmaker like Jordan to fill its power gap.
“Lazard is a small firm that depends on important individuals,” says the firm’s managing director, William Loomis. “And when you have a firm this size with important people in it, you are always going through periodic generational change and you get periods, hopefully not frequently, of instability.” In the latter half of 1999, Lazard added 11 new partners, and according to Loomis, 1999 was the firm’s second best in earnings and best year ever in terms of backlog business for 2000. “I really view Vernon [joining the firm] as part of the new momentum and stability of this place, in a way, because I don’t think he would have come otherwise.” At Lazard, Jordan will use his contacts with corporate execs to help rebuild the firm’s reputation as a leading advisor on mergers and acquisitions.
While some may wonder why Jordan would make such a career change at this stage in his life, to others the answer is obvious. “What he’s doing now is not terribly different from what he’d do at Lazard,” says Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “Jordan doesn’t read cases and write briefs. He’s a rainmaker who puts people together. He’ll be doing the same thing in a different venue.”
So what could possibly be Jordan’s reason for making such a move at this stage in his life? He says it’s about finding new challenges.
“It’s nice to be wanted at 64. Life is about new occasions and new duties and this is another hill to climb.”