Lazard Capital Markets LLC, the closely held brokerage controlled by current and former Lazard Ltd. employees, is exploring strategic options including a sale or joint venture, according to a spokesman.

Lazard Capital, spun out amid Lazard Ltd.’s 2005 initial public offering, also may pursue a capital partner or sell a minority stake as its owners seek to increase the value of the franchise, Scott Sunshine, a spokesman for the New York-based broker-dealer, said in a phone interview. No decision has been made, he said.

Firms across Wall Street have been examining changes to their ownership structure and strategy as the industry’s commissions are squeezed. Money managers are trading less and doing more of it electronically, and customers aren’t as willing to pay for investment recommendations. Firms registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority dropped 7.1 percent to 4,251 in April from the end of 2010.

     Lazard Capital, led by Chief Executive Officer William Buchanan, cut six senior research analysts in December, people familiar with the matter said at the time. The firm had more than $1 billion in assets and about $73 million of equity at the end of 2012, according to regulatory filings. Hamilton, Bermuda- based Lazard Ltd., the largest independent merger adviser, has a separate capital markets advisory business.

Lazard Capital, with about 200 employees, provides research, sales and trading, and underwriting in equities, fixed income and convertible securities, according to its website.

Lazard Capital was a co-manager on the $702 million initial public offering of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and the $102 million offering of Chimerix Inc. last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

When Lazard Freres & Co. went public in 2005, the asset- management and advisory operations became Lazard Ltd. Its alternative-asset and capital markets businesses were folded into a shell company owned by management called LFCM Holdings LLC, according to regulatory filings. Lazard Capital is a subsidiary of LFCM.

The holding company’s stake in the brokerage exceeds 75 percent, Finra records show. Buchanan owns less than 5 percent, as do Chief Compliance Officer Robert Lagay and Chief Financial Officer William Rosenberg, according to Finra.

Lazard Capital pays client referral fees to Lazard Ltd. and also pays to license its brand name. The broker-dealer explores its options from time to time, Sunshine said.

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