NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Bruce Wasserstein, the Lazard chairman and media owner whose properties included New York magazine, died today at 61. He had entered the hospital earlier this week for what was characterized as an irregular heartbeat.
It wasn't immediately clear what Mr. Wasserstein's death would mean for New York, where he was chairman, or for his other properties and investments, including trade publisher Penton Media and The Deal. New York is part of New York Media, which belongs to a family trust. Mr. Wasserstein has seven children; he married for a fourth time earlier this year. But his ownership has been credited with giving New York the resources to grow even while the media business became increasingly unsteady.
"We're shocked and saddened by the loss of Bruce Wasserstein," the magazine said Wednesday in a statement attributed to New York Media editor-in-chief Adam Moss and publisher Larry Burstein. "We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends and share in their grief." A spokeswoman declined to elaborate; Mr. Moss and Mr. Burstein did not respond to inquiries.
"Bruce was perfect for New York magazine," said Caroline Miller, the editor that Mr. Wasserstein displaced to install Mr. Moss. "This despite the fact that he felt the need to replace me. It was a magazine that needed an owner with deep pockets, who had a serious commitment to making it prestigious and smart as possible. And he put a lot of money into it."
"This is a really terrible time for the magazine to lose him, because of the really tragic recession," Ms. Miller added. "This is the kind of time when it matters most who owns you. There hasn't been a tremendous slaughter at the magazine. I'm sure that's in part because rather than having shareholders wringing their hands at the board table, you had an owner who's rich and patient and smart and strategic."
The Deal, where Mr. Wasserstein was also chairman, is owned by private equity funds sponsored by Wasserstein and Co. "The employees of The Deal express our sincerest condolences to his family, to his colleagues and to his friends on and off Wall Street," The Deal said in a statement on its site. "Our thoughts are with you in the days ahead."
Mr. Wasserstein led the investment group that struck a deal to buy New York magazine from Primedia in December 2003, paying $55 million, plus around $2 million in debt, for a title that was then struggling, defeating other contenders including American Media, CurtCo Robb Media and a consortium led by Daily News' Mort Zuckerman. Under Mr. Wasserstein, Mr. Moss led New York to win after win at the annual National Magazine Awards while NYMag.com became an example of what magazines ought to do online.
Most recently, Mr. Wasserstein was rumored to be among those interested in BusinessWeek magazine, which wound up going to Bloomberg LP in a deal announced Tuesday night.
As Portfolio.com reported in January 2008, Mr. Wasserstein served as executive editor at his college paper, "a role that helps explain his devotion to print media."
Those outside the media business will remember him primarily as an investment banker involved in some of the most visible and contentious deals in recent history. During his career he worked on deals including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts's takeover of RJR Nabisco and Carl Icahn's dramatic effort to force a breakup at Time Warner. This fall he worked for the team advising Kraft on a possible takeover of Cadbury.