Legendary Entertainment Lawyer Seymour Lazar Dead At 88

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Seymour Lazar was a well known, flamboyant Hollywood who mingles with celebrities and made and lost a fortune in both the legal field and as a stock trader. Lazar died March 30 at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 88. Lazar has kidney disease and a long list of other ailments due to age.

Lazar opened his legal practice in Los Angeles in the early 1950s with no intentions on being an entertainment lawyer. However, fate would have it that a Hollywood producer came to his office and asked if he specialized in entertainment law. Mr. Lazar replied, “I do now.” This marked the beginning of a career filled with oddities, success and controversy.

Lazar was able to acquire a bevy of celebrity clients due to his brash style and personality. Some of these clients included; comedian Lenny Bruce, jazz star Miles Davis and Broadway producer David Merrick. He did legal work for the Beatles and Bob Dylan and negotiated record contracts for singer Johnny Rivers, who had a top hit in 1966 with “Secret Agent Man.” Lazar also dated a undiscovered Maya Angelou, for a short time in the 1950s. She later publicly credited him with helping launch her career as a poet.

Another one of Lazar’s other accomplishments was helping Hollywood studios make travel arrangements and negotiate with international governments while making films overseas. However, by the mid-1960s, Mr. Lazar had become bored with law and became self-taught stock analyst. He began to scale back his legal work to concentrate on investing. He owned oil wells in Texas and Louisiana, invested in a Spanish-language newspaper and purchased 480,000 acres of timberland in Indonesia. Mostly, though, he bought and sold stocks at a furious rate, becoming “the single largest individual stock trader during the sixties,” according to New York magazine. He reportedly traded $300 million in stocks in 1967 alone.

Some of Mr. Lazar’s spectacular lows were a 1969 $10 million loss after a proposed takeover of the Armour meatpacking company fell through. Afterward, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged him with attempting to manipulate securities, but the case was settled out of .

Mr. Lazar reveled in his wealth as well as his eccentricities. He drove a Rolls-Royce, grew his hair long and gave up socks and neckties (except for court appearances). He wore a custom Pierre Cardin leather suit, which he wore without a shirt. On other occasions, he was seen in bright-colored Chinese-style robes.

However late in his life, 2006, Mr. Lazar was the subject of a  federal investigation. He was of taking $2.6 million in kickbacks over 25 years from the law firm of Milberg Weiss to initiate suits on its behalf in his own name and the names of relatives.In 2007, as part of a plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, filing a false tax return and making a false declaration. He was sentenced to six months in home detention and ordered to pay a $600,000 fine, on top of a previously ordered $1.5 million forfeiture.


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