Bruce Wasserstein’s Big Deal: Conflicts Between New York and Lazard

You can slog through Big Deal , Bruce Wasserstein’s giant text on mergers and acquisitions, and find hundreds of thousands of words on how to take over a corporation, but very few on the ethics and morality necessary to manage and develop a business that demands the probity with which a new owner must acquaint himself.

Yet those values represent exactly what Mr. Wasserstein, the head of Lazard, will need as the new owner of New York magazine, the 35-year-old weekly he acquired two weeks ago for $55 million. New York is a journalistic institution in this city, not only for its history as the home of the New Journalism, as founded by Clay Felker, but also as a generator of investigative journalism generally untethered by its owners through the years-from its first independent investors through the Rupert Murdoch years, and even during the somewhat tortured tenure of Primedia.

But none of them had the very particular set of conflicts that Mr. Wasserstein has. Mr. Wasserstein has stated that he wants to take the magazine up-market and increase its business reporting. But how can he avoid the conflict between New York ‘s coverage of corporate America and the city’s high-profile C.E.O.’s and investment bankers, and the fact that he runs an investment-banking firm that does business with dozens of companies as well as dozens of investment and commercial banks? Indeed, Lazard operates within the very footprint of power that is the magazine’s purview; it will be interesting-to say the least-to see how this driven and lethally effective takeover artist attempts to cover the business community in which he is so deeply and intrinsically involved.

New York City is the capitalist capital of corporate America and the world, and the home of the most significant investment and commercial banks. What will happen the next time there’s a $20 million M. and A. fee on the table for Lazard, and New York is about to cover the comings and goings of the corporate C.E.O. whose company is paying the fee? Has Michel David-Weill, the major shareholder of Lazard, asked himself these questions as Mr. Wasserstein-Lazard’s second-largest shareholder-assumes his role as the latest glossy-press magnate of Manhattan?

The potential conflicts might give both Mr. David-Weill and Mr. Wasserstein cause for some anticipatory concern, as Mr. Wasserstein enters into a new territory of responsibility. This territory demands a level of ethical anticipation and discipline that may not have occurred to Mr. Wasserstein or his colleagues at Lazard as he completed this, his latest Big Deal-one that puts him front and center in the considered and watchful gaze of those who care about the journalistic well-being of the New York media.

Behind the Crime Drop: Commissioner Ray Kelly

It is because he does his job so well, and with such modesty, that few New Yorkers have a real appreciation of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. The ongoing decline in crime-it fell another 7.4 percent in the first six months of 2003-has, incredibly, become business as usual in New York, a city which not too long ago was best known for its dangerous streets and spectacular tabloid murders. But crime does not fall by itself; it is in large part thanks to Commissioner Kelly that New York is the safest large city in America, as reflected in new crime statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On a per capita basis, in terms of safety, New York is in the top 3 percentile of the 200 cities with populations over 100,000. The impact that a low crime rate has on the city’s economic base-in terms of tourism, real-estate values and residents who choose not to flee to the suburbs-cannot be overstated. It is fair to say that since his appointment two years ago this January, Ray Kelly has become the unsung hero of the Bloomberg administration.

Mr. Kelly brings 31 years of experience as a New York City police officer to the job, including 14 months as police commissioner at the end of David Dinkins’ term. A veteran of the Vietnam War with a B.A. degree from Manhattan College, an M.A. from Harvard and law degrees from St. John’s University and New York University, Mr. Kelly rose quickly in the ranks of the NYPD. When Rudolph Giuliani was elected, he overlooked Mr. Kelly’s skills in favor of William Bratton, who himself proved to be one of the most innovative police commissioners the city has ever seen. As Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Bratton transformed the way the city fought crime, Mr. Kelly went on to distinguish himself as undersecretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department, commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service and the global head of corporate security at Bear Sterns.

When incoming Mayor Michael Bloomberg tapped Mr. Kelly as his commissioner, it was just three months after 9/11, and the NYPD was facing the unprecedented challenge of keeping crime down while also guarding the city from shadowy terrorists. And there were signs that crime might be edging up: shootings of innocent bystanders, squeegee men re-appearing at intersections. At the time, Thomas Reppetto, president of the Citizens Crime Commission, said, “I think there are enormous problems here, and the man who solves these problems is going to be a great figure in American law enforcement.” Two years later, Ray Kelly has outperformed anyone’s expectations. Notably, Mayor Bloomberg has given Mr. Kelly the power to run the Police Department without interference from City Hall. And while he frequently mentions his administration’s superb record on crime, the Mayor knows better than to try to grab the glory for himself.

Of course, Ray Kelly’s success is not a solo act; it rests on a whole department of police officers, 36,000 men and women who are committed to doing their job every day of the year, putting their lives at risk so that New Yorkers and their families may go about their own lives without fear.