Damon Mezzacappa, Ex-Lazard Vice Chairman, Dies at 79

Damon Mezzacappa, the former vice chairman of Lazard Freres & Co. who built the investment bank’s capital-markets division in the 1980s and ’90s, has died. He was 79.

He died on April 14 at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, his wife, Katherine Bryan, said in a telephone interview. The cause was lung cancer.

Mezzacappa joined the firm in New York at the behest of then-Chairman Michel David-Weill to expand its business beyond mergers and acquisitions to include stock and bond underwriting and trading. He cut a deal with David-Weill, a French billionaire who controlled Lazard, that brought him annual pay of more than $12 million, according to the 2007 book “The Last Tycoons,” by William Cohan. It was an amount that rankled other partners, Mezzacappa said.

A managing director at Lazard from 1980 to 1999, he oversaw the capital-markets unit’s formation in New York and London, according to a statement announcing his retirement.

“I was really quite sure I would succeed, and I saw it as a great opportunity, which it was because Lazard Freres needed me,” Mezzacappa said, according to Cohan. “They didn’t know how to sell anything.”

Founded by three French brothers in 1848, Lazard ran separate operations based in Paris, London and New York until 2000, when it combined the private firm under a single global partnership, Lazard Group. In 2005, Bruce Wasserstein took charge and the firm went public after 157 years of private ownership. Mezzacappa’s compensation deal was ended in a settlement.

Today the company is known as Lazard Ltd., based in Bermuda.

Manhattan Co-Op

The owner of luxury properties, Mezzacappa sold his co-operative apartment on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue for $42 million to billionaire investor Robert M. Bass in 2012. Other apartment owners in the building on the Upper East Side included News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and discount brokerage founder Charles Schwab, according to property filings at the time.

Mezzacappa was born on March 15, 1936, in Winchester, Massachusetts, to Antonio and Venezia Mezzacappa, his daughter, Jessica Mezzacappa, said in an e-mail. His father, an Italian immigrant, was a professor of languages at Northeastern University in Boston and his mother, the daughter of immigrants from Italy, taught French in local schools.

After graduating as an English major from Harvard College in 1958, he joined the U.S. Army. His finance career began at FS Smithers in Boston before he became a manager at New York-based Morgan Stanley.

After Lazard

Following his retirement at Lazard, he founded Mezzacappa Management LLC, a New York-based firm specializing in hedge funds. Mezzacappa was also an investor in the development of Wynwood, Miami’s new art district.

His collection, some of which was donated to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery in Washington, included works by Lucian Freud and Jasper Johns, his wife said.

Mezzacappa’s marriage in 1962 to Molly Campbell produced four children and ended in divorce.

In addition to his wife and daughter, his survivors include two sons, Jonathan Mezzacappa and Benjamin Mezzacappa. A daughter, Jennifer Anne Mezzacappa, and his second wife, Elizabeth Mezzacappa, preceded him in death.

(Corrects name of university and language taught in ninth paragraph of story published April 16.)
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