Greek radicals play it safe with debt advisers Lazard
By Sophie Sassard
LONDON Feb 5 (Reuters) - Soon after politicians from the far-left Syriza party won power in Greece they said they had hired Lazard to advise them on restructuring their debt.
It is a homecoming of sorts for the U.S. investment bank. Lazard cemented its position as the eminence grise of debt negotiations when it secured the biggest restructuring deal in history for Athens in 2012.
Resolving financial tight spots has been a house speciality since the Great Depression of the 1930s when Lazard, founded as a New Orleans dry-goods merchant in 1848, helped save French carmaker Citroen from bankruptcy.
The firm started focusing on governments in the 1970s when it helped Indonesia restructure its debt.
Geopolitical turmoil and economic shocks keep the clients rolling in with Ukraine also recently signing them to handle talks with bondholders about a possible restructuring of its estimated $70 billion of sovereign debt.
Lazard courted Alexis Tsipras, Syriza's 40-year-old leader, in anticipation of his election as Greek prime minister when the previous centre-left government was still in power, several sources familiar with the Greek talks said.
"Lazard advised on the Greek PSI [private sector involvement] so there is some continuity of approach. That said I'd expect them to amend their approach to reflect the objectives of the new Greek government," said Deborah Zandstra, a partner at law firm Clifford Chance, who has been involved in a number of sovereign debt restructurings.
"From their work in 2012 they will know the people involved there and at the euro zone working group and ECB (European Central Bank)." Continuación...