Banker, New York City savior Felix Rohatyn dies at 91

  • FILE - In this Nov. 12, 1976, file photo, Felix Rohatyn, head of New York's Municipal Assistance Corp. (MAC) speaks at a meeting of the University of Hartford's tax institute in Hartford, Conn. A banker who was credited with saving New York City from financial ruin, Rohatyn died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.

    FILE - In this Nov. 12, 1976, file photo, Felix Rohatyn, head of New York's Municipal Assistance Corp. (MAC) speaks at a meeting of the University of Hartford's tax institute in Hartford, Conn. A banker who was credited with saving New York City from financial ruin, Rohatyn died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at his home in Manhattan. He was 91. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this July 10, 1984, file photo, Felix Rohatyn, center, is surrounded by Judith Jamison and Alvin Ailey during a champagne supper at the New York State Theater in New York, to honor Rohatyn for his contribution to the cultural and business life of New York City. A banker who was credited with saving New York City from financial ruin, Rohatyn died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.

    FILE - In this July 10, 1984, file photo, Felix Rohatyn, center, is surrounded by Judith Jamison and Alvin Ailey during a champagne supper at the New York State Theater in New York, to honor Rohatyn for his contribution to the cultural and business life of New York City. A banker who was credited with saving New York City from financial ruin, Rohatyn died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at his home in Manhattan. He was 91. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/14/2019 6:51 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -

Felix Rohatyn, the financier and government adviser who was credited with helping to save New York City from ruin during the 1970s as chairman of the agency that oversaw the city's finances, died Saturday. He was 91.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rohatyn's son Nicolas Rohatyn said his father died at his Manhattan home. The cause was 'simply old age," he said.

Born in Vienna in 1928, Rohatyn (pronounced ROH-uh-tin) fled Nazi-occupied France with his family in 1940 and arrived in the United States in 1942.

After rising to prominence with the banking firm Lazard, formerly Lazard Freres, Rohatyn was named chairman of the state-appointed Municipal Assistance Corporation in 1975. The position, which he held until 1993, gave him power over taxes and spending in the nation's largest city that was unusual for someone who did not hold elected office.

As chairman of the agency, Rohatyn pushed the financially strapped city to make reforms including a municipal wage freeze and charging tuition at the formerly free City University of New York. Rohatyn wrote in the agency's annual report that the alternative to such cutbacks, which were criticized by many New Yorkers, 'would have been bankruptcy for the city, which would have generated infinitely greater social costs."

Rohatyn likened his work brokering financial deals to the job of a surgeon. "I get called when something is broken,' he told The Associated Press in 1978. 'I'm supposed to operate, fix it up and leave as little blood on the floor as possible.'

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A longtime Democratic donor, Rohatyn was President Bill Clinton's first choice for vice chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1996, but he withdrew from consideration for the post due to opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Clinton named Rohatyn ambassador to France instead, and he served in the position from 1997 to 2000.

Rohatyn returned to Lazard as a senior adviser in 2010 and remained active in public life well into his 80s. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo named him co-chairman of a commission dedicated to improving the resilience of the state's infrastructure following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Rohatyn was a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the author of books including 'Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now,"' published in 2009, and "Dealings: A Political and Financial Life," published in 2010.

Rohatyn married Jeanette Streit in 1956. Their marriage ended in divorce. He married the former Elizabeth Fly in 1979. She died in 2016. Rohatyn's survivors include sons Pierre, Nicolas and Michael, stepdaughter Nina Griscom and six grandchildren.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.