After a prolonged battle among its top executives, Lazard filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

to sell as much as $850 million in stock of the investment bank. The preliminary prospectus did not disclose the number of shares offered, nor an estimated price range.

The so-called S-1 filing comes shortly after Lazard's biggest shareholder Michel David-Weill and its head, Bruce Wasserstein, hammered out the terms of an agreement in which Wasserstein has until the end of 2005 to list Lazard shares.

Previously, David-Weill had blocked plans for an IPO; before giving his blessing, the descendant of Lazard's original founders forced Wasserstein to agree to resign before his current employment contract expires if the deal fails.

The odds of a successful IPO for the more than 200-year old firm would seem to have increased dramatically since David-Weill first raised objections in 2003. The new-issue market just completed its

best week since August 2000.

Reflecting Lazard's pedigree, the deal's underwriters include the top firms on Wall Street:

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

,

Morgan Stanley

(MWD)

,

Credit Suisse First Boston

, and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

, as well as Lazard subsidiary

Lazard Freres

.

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