May 18, 1998 @ 12:01 am

By Jon Birger

Gerald Rosenfeld often spent more time on a plane than in his office when he was head of investment banking at Lazard Freres & Co.

"The lifestyle in M&A is a difficult one," says the 51-year-old Mr. Rosenfeld, long regarded as one of Wall Street's top merger and acquisition advisers. "A typical trip was, get on the 7 p.m. plane to London, fly overnight, take a shower at their airport, do a client meeting, and come back that evening on the 6: 30 flight."

A lifelong New Yorker, Mr. Rosenfeld is hoping his new job will keep him closer to home. Last month he resigned from Lazard to become a senior managing director at NationsBanc Montgomery Securities, where he will head the firm's nascent private equity division.

Making investments in closely held companies is something new for Montgomery, a firm based in San Francisco but with a major office in New York. Until last year, when NationsBank acquired it, Montgomery lacked the resources to invest in up-and-coming companies that are a few years away from going public.

$600 million in pot

NationsBank rectified this shortcoming by committing $600 million to a private equity fund that will be managed by Mr. Rosenfeld and two colleagues, Bill Bunting and Paul Lattanzio.

"Montgomery is a very research-driven, entrepreneurial place, but they never had the capital to exploit a lot of the interesting ideas they generate," says Mr. Rosenfeld.

He expects his fund to invest in industries where Montgomery analysts and investment bankers have the most expertise -- technology, health care, business services and consumer goods.

"I loved my time at Lazard, but I've been interested in getting involved in the investing side of the business for a long time," Mr. Rosenfeld says. "This is a good situation, because the money is already here and so is the deal flow."

Those who've worked with him expect Mr. Rosenfeld to have little trouble making the transition from advising to investing.

"He's very excited about what he's doing, and I think he'll be great at it," says Jim Manzi, a Boston venture capitalist best known as the former chairman of Lotus Development Corp. Mr. Rosenfeld and Lazard colleague Felix Rohatyn were Lotus' advisers when International Business Machines made a hostile bid for Lotus in 1995.

derailed from academics

"Jerry has always been more interested in establishing long-term relationships with companies than just doing deals," Mr. Manzi says.

Mr. Rosenfeld's path to Wall Street was a bit unusual. He earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from New York University in 1973, then taught at the University of Maryland.

"I was headed toward an academic career, but eventually I decided I wanted to do something else with my mathematics," Mr. Rosenfeld says. He got a job at McKinsey & Co., and that led to a job at Salomon Brothers. He spent nine years there, eventually rising to chief financial officer.

Mr. Rosenfeld joined Lazard in 1992, after a four-year stint at Bankers Trust. "Jerry is one of the smartest, most effective investment bankers I know," says Victor Lewkow, an M&A lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. "Over the years, CEOs in a lot of different industries have relied on him, and his departure is a big loss for Lazard."

Crain News Service


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