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Peter A. Cohen is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Shearson Lehman Brothers, later known as Shearson Lehman Hutton from 1983 through 1990. Today, Cohen serves as Chairman and CEO of Cowen Group, formerly known as Cowen & Company.
Cohen began his career on Wall Street at Reynolds & Co., later part of Dean Witter Reynolds and in 1970, joined CBWL-Hayden Stone. In 1973, Cohen would take a position as Assistant to the firm's chairman, Sanford I. Weill, the architect of a major consolidation of brokerage and investment banking firms in the 1960s and 1970s. Cohen would remain with the firm through its various mergers in the 1970s, including Shearson, Hammill & Co. and Loeb, Rhoades, Hornblower & Co.
In 1978, Cohen left Shearson for one year to work for Edmond Safra at Republic New York Corporation and the Trade Development Bank before returning to Shearson in 1979. Shearson merged with American Express in 1981 at which time he became President & Chief Operating Officer and in 1983 Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. At age 36, Cohen was by far the youngest head of a major Wall Street firm.
In 1988, Cohen was a key player in the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. Cohen and Shearson Lehman supported the company's CEO F. Ross Johnson in a proposed $17 billion buyout. Ultimately, Johnson and Cohen lost their bid for the company and RJR Nabisco was acquired by the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Cohen was portrayed by Peter Riegert in the 1993 film Barbarians at the Gate depicting the RJR Nabisco buyout.
In 1991, Cohen founded the securities and asset management businesses of Republic National Bank of New York. From November 1992 to May 1994, Cohen was Vice Chairman and a director of Republic New York.