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Will Avenue’s Lasry Be the Next U.S. Ambassador to France?

Hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, co-founder and CEO of Avenue Capital Group, may soon head to Paris as the U.S.’s new French ambassador. If Lasry gets the job, his sister, Sonia Gardner, who co-founded New York–based Avenue with him in 1995, will probably play a more visible role at the firm.

During a recent fundraising event at the Manhattan home of Avenue Capital Group co-founder and CEO Marc Lasry, former U.S. president Bill Clinton encouraged guests to congratulate their host on his imminent appointment as America’s new ambassador to France.

Hedge fund manager Lasry, whose New York–based Avenue has $11.7 billion in assets, wouldn’t be the first financial titan to occupy the post. Famed Lazard investment banker Felix Rohatyn held it from 1997 to 2000, during the second Clinton administration. The ambassador’s residence in Paris, a stately 19th-century building designed by Louis Visconti, was owned by the Rothschild banking family before Nazi occupiers seized it during World War II.

Lasry, 53, has plenty to recommend him for the ambassadorship. A dapper dresser who favors cashmere sweaters and open-neck shirts, he speaks French, having spent his early childhood in Morocco. Lasry is a big financial supporter of and fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee and President Barack Obama. He’s best known for backing the Clinton family: Chelsea Clinton worked at Avenue before and after her mother Hillary’s presidential primary race of 2007–’08. But Lasry raised $923,000 for Obama’s reelection campaign, according to Washington-based election finance tracker OpenSecrets.org, and public records show that he’s visited the White House at least ten times since the president was first sworn in.

If Lasry — who gave up day-to-day portfolio management duties in 2010 — does depart for Paris, investors will want to know he’s planned for his absence from Avenue. The expectation is that his sister, Sonia Gardner, with whom he founded the firm in 1995, will take a more visible role. A former bankruptcy attorney, she serves as president and oversees the operations side of the business. Avenue hasn’t commented on the boss’s ambassadorial ambitions, but in mid-March, Gardner wrote an e-mail to clients naming Lasry’s deputy and European investment head Richard Furst as CIO. The White House could make an announcement this month. Bonne chance, Monsieur Lasry.

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