Rohatyn, Felix G.

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ROHATYN, FELIX G. (1928– ), U.S. financier. Born in Vienna, Austria, Rohatyn and his family fled Austria in 1935 for France and left in 1940, going to Casablanca, Lisbon, and in 1941, Rio de Janeiro, before arriving in the United States in 1942. He received a B.S. in physics from Middlebury College in 1949 and joined the New York office of the investment bank Lazard Freres under Andre Meyer. During the Korean War, he served in the U.S. Army in Germany, attaining the rank of sergeant and returned to Lazard, one of the most influential financial institutions in the world. He was made a partner in 1961 and rose to managing director, the top office in the firm, earning a reputation as a world authority on mergers and acquisitions. During that time he advised many notable financial figures, including Harold Geneen, then head of itt, and Lew *Wasserman, head of the talent agency mca. At the same time, from 1968 to 1972, he served on the board of governors of the New York Stock Exchange and on the boards of directors of a number of multinational corporations. He led the Stock Exchange's crisis committee through a period of great instability in the 1970s, working to find financing that kept tottering companies from collapse. New York City, where he lived, was suffering population decline during that period, like many urban centers, and saw an erosion of its industrial base. Race riots in the 1960s had also left their mark and by the 1970s the city had gained a reputation as a crime-ridden relic of history. In 1975, the city government was on the brink of financial collapse. The mayor, Abraham D. *Beame, asked Washington for assistance and was told, in a famous headline in The Daily News: "Ford to City: Drop Dead." Rohatyn was summoned to help the city. Through the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which he headed, Rohatyn forced the city to restructure its debt and the city had to accept increased scrutiny of its finances by an agency of New York State called the Financial Control Board. Rohatyn is credited with managing the negotiations with unions that put up their pension funds to back the city's debt as the city issued revenue and tax anticipation notes. The city survived, and the 1980s saw a rebirth of Wall Street with the city reclaiming its role at the center of the worldwide financial industry. Rohatyn headed the agency from 1975 to 1993. In 1997, when he retired from Lazard, Rohatyn was appointed United States ambassador to France by President Bill Clinton. He served until 2000 and was named commander of the French Legion of Honor. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also served as vice chairman of Carnegie Hall in New York and was a trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He established Rohatyn Associates in 2001 to provide financial advice to corporations. Among the boards he served on were those of lvmh Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Publicis Group, Groupe Lardere, and Rothschild Continuation Holdings.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]