Wasserstein's death marks end of era... or does it?

Wall Street may have lost a legend, but the age of the big bonus is not dead yet.

Lazard boss Bruce Wasserstein passed away last night after being taken to hospital with an irregular heartbeat. It leaves Wall Street mourning the loss of a banking legend: Bid 'em up Bruce was the man behind such colossal deals as KKR's $31.4bn hostile takeover of RJR Nabisco, which was immortalised in the book Barbarians at the Gate, and Kraft's recent bid for Cadbury - a move that bore all the audacious hallmarks of a classic Wasser. Just don't mention the flapping turkey that was the AOL-Time Warner marriage.

It makes for a curious time for a legend to leave us - after a three-decade career on Wall Street, in which Wasserstein became the figurehead of the hard-hitting, high-flying '80s and made deals worth more than $250bn, he played out the final act of his career in a banking world that had taken such a battering it must have seemed like another planet.  

Just take a look at this week. Two Bear Stearns hedge fund managers have become the first Wall Street bankers to stand trial in a criminal case resulting from the credit crunch - accused of orchestrating a $1.6bn fraud in a bid to shore up their coffers as their funds fell to pieces. Meanwhile the American banking world is currently anticipating the hundredth failure of a high-street bank since the beginning of the year, as its financial institutions continue to wallow in the fallout from bad loans and delinquent mortgages.

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