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Board members of Lazard LLC, the world's largest privately owned bank, met Tuesday on whether to take the 156-year-old company public ... and punted. After a more than four-hour session at the company's headquarters in Paris, sources close to the matter said no vote was taken on a proposal by chief executive Bruce Wasserstein for an initial public offering of stock. Instead, published reports said, the participants told Wasserstein that many of the firm's 202 working partners have reservations about the plan and that more discussion is needed before they'd be willing to endorse an IPO that would give the bank a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Such a move would be the largest in the banking industry since Goldman Sachs shifted from a private partnership to a publicly traded company in 1999. A Lazard spokesman declined to comment on the matter, but the Financial Times quoted a source close to Wasserstein as saying, "We will probably not know until [Friday] or Saturday whether the IPO can proceed or not." The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal said bankers estimate Lazard to be worth more than $3 billion and that a public listing isn't expected until at least early next year.


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