BIRTH DATE: 1952 CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: General partner and founder, Communications Group, Lazard Freres & Co., 1989 to present; managing director and founder, Communications Group, Morgan Stanley, 1984-1989; Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb, 1982-84; correspondent, The New York Times, 1975-1982; assistant to James Reston, The New York Times, 1974. EDUCATION: B.S. in economics, Brown University. PERSONAL: Married with three sons, one daughter. THE MAN BEHIND THE $2B-PLUS ZIFF SELLOFF

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About a decade ago, Steve Rattner was covering business and finance for The New York Times. Today, the business press is covering Mr. Rattner as he engineers the $2 billion-plus selloff of Ziff Communications.

The 42-year-old dealmaker and Lazard Freres & Co. partner is getting much of the credit for the prices Ziff is bringing, including last week's combined $667 million for the Information Access Co. and trade and conference show business.

"The Ziff deal was very satisfying because it went so smoothly and successfully," said Mr. Rattner. That contrasts with his experience representing Paramount Communications in last year's bitter takeover fight with Viacom and QVC.

"The most involved, contentious and protracted deal I was ever involved in," he said.

With Ziff, Mr. Rattner conducted an auction that generated enough excitement to garner extraordinarily high multiples for secondary units.

It was no surprise he got $1.4 billion for Ziff's high tech publishing business from Forstmann Little & Co., a multiple of nearly 10 times the unit's projected $146 million in 1994 cash flow.

But when Canadian giant Thomson Corp. last week agreed to pay $465 million for Information Access Co., the multiples started raising eyebrows. The online database services supplier's estimated annual revenue is $150 million.

Then Softbank Corp., Tokyo, agreed to pay $202 million for the trade and conference show business. The group is projected to earn about $9 million this year, meaning a sale price of more than 22 times projected earnings. Only Ziff-Davis Interchange, a state-of-the-art online service, remains to be sold.

Some credit for holding the line on Ziff-Davis Publishing has to go to Veronis, Suhler & Associates. The rival investment bank advised Forstmann Little and helped bring in some of the $500 million in bank loans that helped forge the all-cash deal.

In addition to Ziff, Mr. Rattner's wins include Knapp Comunications' $175 million divestment of Bon Appetit and Architectural Digest to Conde Nast Publications last year. Veronis Suhler represented the buyer in that deal. And, as every investment banker knows, it's usually more lucrative to represent the seller.

Mr. Rattner downplayed talk of rivalry between his 5-year-old communications wing at Lazard and 13-year-old Veronis Suhler.

"I compete with everyone in the field, and they are among the competitors," he said. "I got the last two deals [Ziff and Knapp], but they may get the next two."

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