The story just broke, and the cause of death is unconfirmed thus far. But Wasserstein's health has been a subject of speculation for years; he shed a significant amount of weight a few years ago, sparking rumors of ill health then.
Wasserstein built a career as a consummate dealmaker. But his last piece of work in the media was a deal he didn't make; he withdrew from the bidding on BusinessWeek last month, after considering trying to land the magazine for his portfolio.
Born to a wealthy family in Brooklyn, Wasserstein came out of Harvard and became one of the premier M&A men on Wall Street. He advised on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of deals over the course of more than 20 years. He formed his own investment bank, sold it off for more than $1 billion, and then joined Lazard, where he continued his work.
He divorced his wife last year, and early this year married a much younger woman, who now finds herself a widow.
The effect of Wasserstein's death on New York and on his financial business are still unknown; but the fallout will surely be felt. Soon.
UPDATE: Daily Intel has this statement from the bosses at New York magazine:
New York Media editor-in-chief Adam Moss and publisher Larry Burstein released the following statement: "We're shocked and saddened by the loss of Bruce Wasserstein. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends and share in their grief."