Centerview Partners, one of America’s top investment banks, has hired Matthieu Pigasse to launch its Paris operations, six months after the former head of Lazard in France announced he was leaving to start a new project “beyond investment banking”.
Mr Pigasse, who had fashioned himself as a disrupter in France’s close-knit financial world, will be joined by two other former Lazard bankers, Nicolas Constant and Pierre Pasqual, and 12 other professionals, to launch Centerview’s first office in continental Europe. The group will build on the team of 40 people already working for Centerview in London.
The move by veteran dealmakers Blair Effron and Robert Pruzan, who co-founded Centerview in 2006, to expand in Europe comes at a time when a multiyear boom in dealmaking activity has come to a halt during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Despite current challenges, we are confident that businesses in France and across Europe are resilient and will be essential contributors to the global economic recovery,” said Mr Effron. “Matthieu is one of the most renowned and well-respected bankers in Europe.”
Centerview’s decision to go ahead with the long-planned opening of the French office during a tough time for businesses globally reflects the group’s faith in its ability to weather a potentially longstanding deal and revenue drought.
With roughly 55 partners, New York-based Centerview generates about $1bn in revenues annually from deal fees. This has included advising 21st Century Fox on its $71bn asset sale to Walt Disney, and US jeweller Tiffany when it recently agreed to be acquired by French luxury group LVMH for $16.6bn.
Mr Pigasse, who left Lazard in October after 17 years at the investment bank, said the opening of Centerview’s new office in Paris was “an act of confidence in the future”.
The decision by the flamboyant French banker, who also co-owns Le Monde newspaper, to join a rival investment bank marks a blow for Lazard. The venerable firm, founded in New Orleans in 1848 as a dry goods merchant by the Lazard brothers, has dominated deal advisory banking in France for decades. Centerview, which launched just over a decade ago, has emerged as a rival to Lazard in the US and will immediately challenge it on its home turf.
In the weeks leading up to the October announcement that Mr Pigasse would leave Lazard by the end of 2019, there had been mounting speculation that he was in discussions with multiple firms looking to launch in Paris. Both he and Lazard, however, consistently denied he would leave.
Mr Pigasse’s departure — which he described at the time as “my next chapter beyond investment banking in a new entrepreneurial project” — was at least partially a relief for Lazard’s senior management who had grown weary of the ongoing drama. Nevertheless, insiders at the bank’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York believed that their Parisian colleague would not defect to an arch-rival.
Kenneth Jacobs, chairman and chief executive of Lazard, said at the time of Mr Pigasse’s departure: “Matthieu has unfortunately decided to resign, and I want to thank him for his contribution and wish him every success as he turns to his new entrepreneurial endeavour.”
Mr Pigasse has advised some of France’s largest companies, including Carrefour, Sanofi, L’Oréal and Danone, and carved out a reputation advising on sovereign debt restructuring for Iraq, Ecuador, Argentina, Cyprus and Greece.
“Matthieu’s experience building long-term client relationships and mentoring younger bankers aligns perfectly with Centerview’s philosophy and culture,” said its co-founder Mr Pruzan.