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Bruce Wasserstein ( 1947 - 2009 )  Category ( Businessmen_Women ) [suggest a correction]

It seemed only appropriate that Bruce Wasserstein was born on Christmas Day, although that may not have had much significance to his Jewish family.

Almost from that day on, he led a charmed life.

An honor student at the prestigious McBurney School in New York City, Wasserstein went on to the University of Michigan, where he graduated with honors, served as executive editor of the school newspaper and worked for Forbes Magazine during the summers.

His Michigan grades (and, no doubt, his father's textile money) got him into Harvard Business School, then Harvard Law. His first post-graduate job was with the Boston law firm of Crawath, Swaine and Moore.

Wasserstein was less interested in civil or courtroom law, however, than with the brave new world of mergers and acquisitions. Hired by First Boston, a leading M&A firm, he rose all the way to the top before leaving to form his own campany, WassersteinPerella & Co., with fellow First Boston escapee Joe Perella.

At the peak of the raging 1990s bull market, Wasserstein sold the company to Dresdner Bank of Germany for the astounding price of $1.4 billion in stock. He then started Lazard, Ltd. and continued his work guiding mergers and takeovers.

In all, Wasserstein was said to have presided over more than 1,000 mergers worth more than $250 billion. Among the most high profile deals were K.K.K.'s acrimonious buyout of RJR Nabisco (the subject of the book "Barbarians at the Gate"), Time, Inc.'s merger with Warner Brothers and Morgan Stanley's acquisition of Dean Witter.

Wasserstein also owned New York Magazine, which he acquired in 2004. After his boss' death from a heart attack in 2009 at the age of 61, New York editor Adam Moss said of him:  “He had always been interested in journalism, an interest sharpened by being on the receiving end of it. But he never used it to wield influence the way other powerful men would have, never tried to plant a story, never complained about anything we published.”

With a personal net worth estimated at more than $2 billion, Wasserstein once donated $25 million for a new wing of the Harvard Law School.

In his personal life, however, he was more successful in acquisitions than mergers. He was divorced three times, although married for a fourth at the time of his death. He left six children, and also raised the daughter of his late sister, playwrite Wendy Wasserstein.

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