As the founding CEO and chair of the Blackstone Group (the world’s largest buyout firm), Stephen Schwarzman ranks as one of the world’s richest and most controversial figures. His mammoth salary and extravagant lifestyle have led some to name and shame him as the poster boy for financial excess. Others, meanwhile, stand in admiration of his financial acumen, political influence, and philanthropic endeavors. Whatever your opinion on Schwarzman, he’s not easily dismissed. To find out more, keep reading.
1. He was in the same society as George W. Bush
Schwarzman was born and raised in a Jewish family in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania. His parents, Arline and Joseph Schwarzman, owned Schwarzman's, a dry-goods store. After graduating from Abington Senior High School in 1965, Schwarzman attended Yale University. While a student, Schwarzman was a member of the same Skull and Bones secret society as George W. Bush. Despite its “secret” status, the society has become something of an institution, thanks largely to its influential alumni and the various conspiracy theories and folklore that surrounds it. After graduating from Yale in 1969, Schwarzman served a brief stint in the army before completing his MBA at Harvard Business School.
2. He was a managing director at 31
After completing his MBA at Harvard Business School, Schwarzman landed a position at the investment bank, Lehman Brothers. His rise up the ranks was rapid; by the time he was just 31 years old, Schwarzman had reached the position of Managing Director. From there, he progressed to the head of global mergers and acquisitions. While at Lehman’s, Schwarzman worked under Chairman and CEO of the group, Peter George Peterson. In 1985, the two decided to join forces and start their own business. The result was the global private equity firm, The Blackstone Group.
3. Blackstone is named after him
Hear “Blackstone” and it’s unlikely you’ll spot the connection between the name of the multi-billion-dollar company and the name of its multi- billion-dollar owner. Well, it is if you don’t understand a least a smattering of German, Yiddish and Greek. If you do (and if you understand a little of the company’s history), you’ll know the name is actually a combination of its two founder’s names. “Schwarz” is German and Yiddish for black, while “Peter” (as in, Pete Peterson, co-founder of the company) is Greek for stone. Put the two words together and what do you get? Exactly.
4. He grew Blackstone into the world’s biggest buyout firm
Blackstone started out as a relatively small concern, dealing primarily in mergers and acquisitions. Under Schwarzman’s leadership, it quickly grew into the largest buyout firm in the world, with $439 billion in assets. When the company proposed to go public in 2007, Schwarzman was forced to revel the extent of his earnings: the subsequent security filings showed that in 2006, Schwarzman had taken home the incredible sum of $398m. After the stock market flotation of Blackstone, Schwarzman bagged a further $684 million for the sale of his shares, leaving him with a $9.1 billion stake.
5. He became a poster boy for excess
When Schwarzman’s earnings were revealed in 2007, critics were quick to attack what they considered his history of financial excess. Richard Ferlauto, director of investment policy at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee, called into question the favorable tax breaks that had allowed the Blackstone CEO to accrue his wealth, and worried the CEO was setting a precedent in huge bonuses and incentives that would damage other businesses. "How much incentive does he need, given his direct ownership of the company, to get him to produce more for his limited partners?" he asked.
6. He led the biggest leveraged buyout in history
In 2007, Schwarzman led the biggest leveraged buyout in history when Blackstone acquired Equity Office Partners in a $34 billion deal. The acquisition saw Blackstone take control of the company’s 540 office building; its portfolio grew yet further when it acquired the Hilton Hotel chain just a short time later.
7. He founded the Schwarzman Scholars
In 2013, Schwarzman provided the full financial backing needed to launch Schwarzman Scholars, an international scholarship program at Tsinghua University in Beijing that aims to educate future global leaders about China. The program, which launched to the tune of $575 million, is modeled on the Rhodes Scholarship, and, according to Blackstone is the largest philanthropic effort in China’s history to have come from international financiers.
8. He helped fund the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing
In 2018, Schwarzman proved his philanthropic credentials once again when he donated a hefty $350 million sum to help found the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. The college serves as a vibrant, interdisciplinary hub committed to addressing the global opportunities and challenges presented by the ever-increasing prevalence of computing and the dawning of a new age of AI. With a total of $1 billion committed to its development, the college represents the largest investment in AI and computing by any academic institution in the world.
9. He’s donated to multiple educational causes
In addition to his contribution to the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Schwarzman has invested heavily in various other educational causes. His list of donations would be too extensive to roll- off in full, but some key highlights include his gift of £150 million to Yale University to establish the Schwarzman Center; his $5 million contribution to Harvard Business School to support research into the consequences of AI on industries and business; a $40 million donation to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund; and a $100 million prize to the New York Public Library.
10.He serves on multiple boards
Schwarzman’s work ethic takes him beyond the scope of normal human endurance: in addition to his activities with Blackstone, he serves on the board of more organizations, corporations, trusts and charities than you would have thought possible. A rundown of all his involvements would take an age to read and even longer to write – to name just a select few, then, we have the Council on Foreign Relations, The Business Council, The Business Roundtable, and The International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.
11. He’s one of TIME’s most influential people
In the early years of the millennium, TIME confirmed what we’d all suspected for some time: Stephen Schwarzman is seriously influential. After his naming as one of the magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2007, Schwarzman had to wait a few years before his prowess was recognized for a 2nd time; this time around, it was Forbes that did the recognizing, given him poll position on their 2017 list of the most influential people in finance. In 2018, he polled again, this time in the Top 50 of Forbes’ list of the “World’s Most Powerful People”.
12. He’s been awarded the Légion d'Honneur
In recognition of his vast and varied contributions to business and philanthropy, Schwarzman has achieved what precious few American’s have: the dual honor of being awarded both the Légion d'Honneur and the Ordre des Arts et des Letters at the Commandeur level. Both awards are presented only to those individuals who have significantly contributed to the French nation, making their award to a non-French citizen a vary rare and prized occurrence.
13. He’s a recipient of the Order of the Aztec Eagle
As well as receiving the two highest honors bestowed on individuals by the French government, Schwarzman has also been privileged with Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners, the Order of the Aztec Eagle. The award was created in 1933 by then president Abelardo L. Rodríguez to recognize the services given to Mexico or humankind by foreigners. In addition to Schwarzman, other notable beneficiaries of the award include Walt Disney, Bono, Nelson Mandela and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
14. He’s been married twice
Schwarzman has been married twice: his first marriage in 1971 was to Ellen Philips, a trustee of Northwestern University and the Mount Sinai Medical Center. After two children (one of whom is the film producer and founder of Black Bear Pictures, Teddy Schwarzman) and 19 years, the couple called it a day in 1990. Five years after his divorce was finalized, Schwarzman married again, this time to intellectual property lawyer, Christine Hearst. While the couple have no children together, Hearst has one child from a previous marriage. According to the Guardian, the couple currently reside in a 20,000 square foot, two-floor Park Avenue apartment boasting 35 rooms, his-and-hers saunas, a pine-paneled library and 13 bathrooms.
15. His Net Worth is $15.1 Billion
Schwarzman’s business activities haven’t been in vain- despite giving millions of dollars away to charitable causes, Schwarzman still ranks as one of the world’s richest men. According to Forbes’ latest figures, the CEO and Chair of Blackstone is today worth a staggering $15.1 Billion. His enormous wealth has seen him rank #100 on Forbes Billionaires 2019, #34 on Forbes 400 2018, and #42 on Forbes Powerful People 2018.
16. He’s a killer (figuratively speaking)
When it comes to business, Schwarzman takes no prisoners. The deeply competitive CEO has no time to waste when it comes to the financial market: if you’re up against him, don’t expect any courtesy. "I want war, not a series of skirmishes," he’s been quoted as saying. "I always think about what will kill off the other bidder." Consider yourself warned.
17. He’s friends with Trump
Schwarzman, an out- and- proud Republican, is a long- time friend and supporter of President Trump. During Trump’s race for candidacy, Schwarzman came out to favor the real estate mogul over his revival, Ted Cruz, telling CNBC America needed a "cohesive, healing presidency, not one that's lurching either to the right or to the left.” Schwarzman has a long history with the Republican party: as well as raising at least $100,000 as a Bush Pioneer, he briefly served as chair of President Trump's short-lived Strategic and Policy Forum, a group of cooperate executives including CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, Walt Disney head Bob Iger and former General Electric leader Jack Welch that served to advice Trump on employment matters and the economy.
18. He’s defended his support of Trump
Schwarzman’s career has involved more than the occasional controversy, so he was well equipped to deal with the criticism he faced after coming out in support of President Trump. In a letter to the students of the Schwarzman Scholars, Schwarzman defended his position with the comment "having influence and providing sound advice is a good thing, even if it attracts criticism or requires some sacrifice”.
19. He wasn’t a fan of Obama’s presidency
It’s no secret Schwarzman is a Republican, but no one was expecting quite the vitriol the CEO directed at President Obama during the democrat’s term in office. During an address to the board members of a non-profit in 2010, Schwarzman let loose his feelings about the Obama’s administration’s increased taxation of private equity firms. “It's a war," Schwarzman ranted. "It's like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939." The attendees were understandably a little bemused. "War? Hitler? Poland? A little over the top for a proposal to make hedge-fund managers pay their fair share in taxes," one attendee commented. In the end, Schwarzman was forced to apologize for the contentious analogy.
20. He loves a party
Schwarzman, as we know already, has a big income… and he has absolutely no hesitation in spending that income any damn way he pleases. Despite being called out for his extravagant lifestyle, Schwarzman is clearly not one to let the haters get in the way of his enjoyment of the finer thing in life, certainly not when it comes to throwing a party, in any case. Some of his most fabulous shindigs have included a Christmas event based around a 007 theme (complete with Bond Girl waitresses), and a birthday celebration that saw his Park Avenue apartment recreated down to the very last detail at a regimental armory on Manhattan’s upper east side. On the guest list that night were dignitaries such as Colin Powell, Donald Trump and mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as celebrities such as Patti LaBelle and Rod Stewart, both of whom treated their host to private performances.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker