Ward’s retirement is effective immediately, the Hamilton, Bermuda-based firm said today in a regulatory filing. Ashish Bhutani, chief executive officer of Lazard Asset Management, will take over Ward’s duties as chairman of the asset management group, according to the filing.
Ward, 58, is the highest-ranking Lazard executive to depart since Wasserstein died in October and Kenneth Jacobs, 51, succeeded him the following month. Ward sought a new job and held talks with rival firms, including Evercore Partners Inc. and Perella Weinberg Partners LP, which was co-founded by his former boss, Joseph Perella, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.
Judi Mackey, a Lazard spokeswoman, declined to comment on whether the firm has replaced Ward as president.
Ward was an investment banker under Wasserstein and Perella at First Boston from 1979 to 1988, then helped them form Wasserstein Perella & Co., the advisory boutique, where he was president. He later returned to First Boston Corp., by then known as Credit Suisse First Boston, where he ran investment banking. Ward left CSFB in 2002 to join Wasserstein at Lazard as president.
Ward will continue to receive his salary until Sept. 30, and his restricted stock awards will continue to vest as scheduled, subject to his compliance with certain non-compete and confidentiality agreements, Lazard said. Ward’s total pay for 2009 was valued at $3 million, according to a proxy statement filed in March.