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RICHARD LUKAJ - The Wizard of Wall Street by Kaya Morgan

On most days, you can find Richard Lukaj in his office huddled with a group of tight knit colleagues on a conference call perhaps informing a client that their proposed transaction was just successfully negotiated. Nearby, another deal-making team anxiously waits in the wings for their turn to discuss another high profile transaction.  After wrapping up the meeting, Lukaj takes a few seconds to divert a call on his ever ringing cell phone then shoots a quick text message to reschedule an upcoming meeting, directing his assistant to follow up with the details.

Meanwhile, one can hear the unmistakable sound of the steady, quiet pinging of incoming emails on Rich’s nearby computer.  He turns and sends an IM with a few quick instructions to a colleague on yet another matter, while the new team is already setting up for the next call.  His assistant pops in for his signature on some documents, and requests final approval on outgoing checks for a few of the many charities Lukaj supports.  A quick glance at his calendar shows not one, but often two or three items requiring his attention for every waking hour. Yet it is just another normal day in Lukaj’s hectic and highly productive schedule.

Although this reputable Wall Street investment banker, once selected as one of the "Top 40 Under 40" executives by Crain's New York Business magazine, is rapidly approaching his 40th birthday, he shows no visible signs of slowing down.  No surprise when you consider that Lukaj made history as one of the youngest bankers ever to be promoted to Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns, thanks to his astute business savvy and demonstrated productivity.

Yet, many were surprised again to see Lukaj leave that firm − after a successful twelve year run − to establish a new company, the Bank Street Group.  Since Bank Street opened its doors, Lukaj and his partners have attracted a number of other top Wall Street luminaries from firms such as Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup, among others. Today, Bank Street is recognized as a leading independent investment banking franchise, known for the tenacity, creativity and finesse of its team.

Over the last few years, the firm, which specializes in meeting the needs of middle market businesses in growth industries, has executed mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, and debt/equity financing transactions both in the U.S. and abroad totaling multi-billions of dollars across numerous sectors of the economy, including technology, media, telecommunications, healthcare and life sciences, aerospace and defense, financial institutions, real estate, and the leisure industry.

Born in a refugee camp in Italy during his parents' flight from Communism and poverty in Albania and Montenegro, Lukaj knows only too well how fortunate he is. The eldest of three children, raised in Manhattan's Lower East Side and on the tough streets of Brooklyn, this son of Albanian immigrants did not even speak English when he first entered the New York City public school system.  But, with strong ambition and a tireless work ethic, Lukaj excelled academically and ultimately worked his way through New York University’s Stern School of Business.  Today, he is on the Board of Trustees of his children’s school, has co-founded and worked tirelessly to build the American University in Kosova, and has helped computerize countless schools in villages around Southeastern Europe.

Still, Lukaj is the kind of man who is proud of being able to make time to drop his children off at school and, more frequently than not, catch up with them before bedtime. “We are occasionally blessed with the uncanny ability to make a difference in the world.  If given that ability, it is a tremendous responsibility for the bearer of the gift to use it wisely.  I regret I was more careless with my time in my earlier years.  My commitment for the future is to focus on things that will leave a lasting impression well beyond my lifetime,” he says.  Although he now lives in a spectacular lakefront house adjacent to a 300-acre nature preserve, and has personally executed well over $100 billion in transactions during his career, he remains a warm and easy conversationalist with none of the arrogance you might expect of a Wall Street stereotype.

Lukaj’s hard work and modest demeanor have paid off for Bank Street, his philanthropic endeavors, and his many clients.  He is soft-spoken, yet ruthlessly loyal to his friends and colleagues.  A Wall Street competitor describes Lukaj as “the best friend you can ever have and perhaps the worst enemy you can possibly make.  I am proud to call him a friend despite being competitors in certain arenas, and have enjoyed the pleasure of working across the table with him constructively on a number of occasions.”

Rich always uses the word “we” in reference to every major achievement accomplished at Bank Street, from the four-way breakup of a public company across two continents, to the $100 million private equity deal for a client during the nuclear winter of the financial markets late last Fall.  More recently, Bank Street advised on a transaction marking the first time a national cable company has agreed to purchase a local telephone company, solidifying their reputation as a leader at the cutting edge of change in industries the firm specializes in.

Inspired by his challenging past, Lukaj has a strong commitment to humanitarian causes and always finds the time to fit them into his demanding lifestyle and schedule.  He is also very politically active in helping to shape opinions and U.S. policy on subjects ranging from foreign relations to the local economy.  With strong lingering ties to the Balkans and family still living in the region, Rich has been actively involved in changing the makeup of Southeastern Europe through the various crises of the last decade.

His continuing commitment to humanitarian causes is a driving force in his life, and he remains active on the boards of a number of educational and professional development organizations. When asked for the secret to his success, Lukaj simply smiles and says: "Surround yourself with people you can trust, maximize your ideas, and dare to dream together."  It is a philosophy that has clearly served him well.

For more information on Richard Lukaj or Bank Street Group, go to


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