André Meyer got a secondary school education in the United States.
André Meyer obtained a post as messenger for a financial house that was a member of the French Bourse (stock market). From there he became a trader at the Bourse, where he caught the attention of David David-Weill, who headed the small but prestigious banking firm of Lazard Frères and who provided him with a job in which he learned the rudiments of investment banking. In 1927, Meyer was named a partner at Lazard, where for the next fourteen years he was involved in a series of spectacular underwritings and organizations, the most famous of which was the creation of Sovac, a pioneering finance company. When France surrendered to Germany in 1940, Meyer took his family to the United States, where he found a place at the American branch of Lazard, working with the firm's chief executive officer, Frank Altschul. When Altschul retired in 1943, Meyer became its senior partner. There were three kinds of investment banks in the period immediately after World War II. The best known were those concentrating on brokerage, especially the larger ones, known as "wire houses. " Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane, and E. F. Hutton were the best known of these. They concentrated on serving small as well as some larger customers by buying and selling stocks and bonds for their accounts.
The second type of investment banks were those that concentrated on raising capital for clients by selling their new issues of stock and bonds to individual and institutional accounts. Kuhn Loeb and Morgan Stanley were among the leaders in this category. Both types of firms had ambitions to expand into other areas; Merrill would enter underwriting, while some investment banks purchased brokerages or started their own, in attempts to become what later would be called "financial supermarkets. " Meyer had no such ambitions for Lazard. Rather, under his leadership Lazard concentrated on offering advice to corporations and individuals regarding their investments and occasionally purchasing properties so as to sell them later at a substantial profit. Typically, Lazard would structure a deal for a client and then, when it was necessary to raise funds by marketing securities, would put together a syndicate, including wire houses and investment banks, and direct its efforts. Meyer described the practice as "financial engineering. "
Meyer was at the height of his power and influence during the conglomerate era of the 1970's, when Lazard advised many companies seeking to grow through acquisitions. One of these was International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), which was headed by Harold Geneen, the most famous conglomerator of his time. Meyer engineered Lazard's purchase of Avis Rent a Car System for around $7 million; a few years later it was sold to ITT for $52 million in stock. Meyer preferred to operate behind the scenes, leaving the spotlight to younger partners, such as Felix Rohatyn, who was ITT's banker and who had a seat on ITT's board of directors. Rohatyn engineered the Avis purchase and many others of the Geneen era. He also served such Lazard clients as Schenley, Radio Corporation of America, United Aircraft, Lone Star Cement, and Transamerica. If most readers of business pages concluded that Rohatyn was the star on Wall Street, industry insiders realized that Meyer was the real power at Lazard and that Rohatyn's successes were in great measure due to Meyer's patronage. Meyer's other activities included philanthropies and art. He was a major benefactor of New York University, the Louvre in Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 1949, Meyer became an American citizen. Despite his successes, Meyer was never truly secure after fleeing Europe. He had no confidants or close friends. "Did I ever trust anyone?" he responded to his granddaughter. "No, but I wished I could have. " He lived in the Carlyle Hotel, because, said Rohatyn, "he wanted to be able to go downstairs on any day and check out and leave to just shut the door, turn in the key, pick up his airplane ticket, and go. " At the time of his death, Meyer's worth was estimated at around $250 million, although some thought it was closer to $500 million. His successor as Lazard chairman was Michel David-Weill, who once headed the firm's Paris branch but who had worked with Meyer in New York for several years. This came as a surprise to those outside the firm who had expected Rohatyn to succeed Meyer. By then, however, Rohatyn had gained celebrity status as the banker who had engineered New York City's recovery from its 1975 financial crisis and was more valuable to the firm as a deal maker than as an executive.
Quotes from others about the person
David Rockefeller, one of his clients and associates, said "in many ways, Meyer is the most creative financial genius of our time in the investment banking field. "
In 1922, Meyer married Bella Lehman, with whom he had a son (Philippe) and a daughter (Francine). Among his grandchildren at the time of his death were Patrick Gerschel, Laurent Gerschel, and Marianne Gerschel Merrick, all of whom became partners at Lazard, and who were his daughter Francine's children. There were also five great-grandchildren.