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Lazard Succession, Iger’s ESPN Move, & Netflix’s Ozempic

Peter Orszag will likely take the reins from Ken Jacobs as C.E.O. of Lazard.
Peter Orszag will likely take the reins from Ken Jacobs as C.E.O. of Lazard. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
William D. Cohan
May 21, 2023

It’s hard to know sometimes where the tipping point lies. Or what causes one event to happen rather than another. But, there’s no question les jeux sont fait, as Jean-Paul Sartre might have said, for my old colleague, Ken Jacobs, at the top of Lazard at the time of my May 11 column about the firm and Jacobs’ tenure as its chief executive. It was obvious to anyone watching that his time as the C.E.O. of the firm had to be nearing its end: He’d been there 14 years, during which time the stock had done nothing except go down 27 percent; he had just made the decision to lay off 10 percent of the workforce, something Lazard had never done before in its majestic 175-year history; and, to put it mildly, the troops were getting restless. 

Eight days later, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Jacobs was out, and that Peter Orszag, the former Obama-era budget czar and a Lazard executive since February 2016, was in. Oddly, though, Lazard has not made the news official. The articles about the move still use the subjunctive tense, as in that the succession is something Jacobs and Lazard intend to do but haven’t yet gotten around to actually doing it. (No 8-K, for instance, has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.) And, I’m told, before it ran, Lazard did everything it could to try to kill the Journal story about Jacobs giving up the C.E.O. role and Orszag assuming it. Jacobs then went out of his way, in an interview with The Sunday Times of London, to make it seem like the succession process at Lazard had been seamless. “I’m taking the drama out of succession,” he reportedly told the newspaper.