Steve Schwarzman Maps an Arc From Mowing Lawns to Advising Trump


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Mar 5, 2020
Angela Merkel once asked Steve Schwarzman to explain private equity.
It was 2006, and a debate was raging across Germany after her vice chancellor called such investors “locusts.”
Daily News

“But I’m a good locust,” Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman and co-founder of Blackstone Group, told her.

Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman Interview
Stephen SchwarzmanPhotographer: David Dee Delgado/Bloomberg
It’s one of the defining lines of his new book, which arrives just as Schwarzman’s critics are growing more vocal in questioning his ties to President Donald Trump, increasing wealth and mega-philanthropy at MIT, Oxford and Yale.

Democrat Elizabeth Warren calls private equity firms “vampires” and wants people like him to pay a wealth tax. Blackstone has been blamed for contributing to, and profiting from, the deforestation of the Amazon. Even in as familiar a place as his 50th Yale reunion, classmate Jim Sleeper heckled Schwarzman for displacing people from their homes, a reference to Blackstone’s buying foreclosed properties after the financial crisis.

So a book answering critics would be timely. Schwarzman, 72, defends his firm’s work to Merkel in four paragraphs. The chapters on building and expanding Blackstone, which make up more than half the book, can be seen as an extension of his argument.

But on other scores he has chosen not to engage. He doesn’t address the resistance some of his philanthropic projects have met. He avoids mentioning the spoils of his success -- the parties he has thrown, the houses, the vacations in the South of France. Not that he promised to dish: The book is called “What It Takes,” not “What I Got.”

As for Trump, he may be upset that his name doesn’t appear in the narrative until page 307 of 354. There, Schwarzman describes the call that brought him to Trump Tower in November 2016, and how he has served the president, for example by helping to arrange Xi Jinping’s visit to Mar-a-Lago in April 2017. But Schwarzman leaves out that two months earlier, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin were guests at his 70th birthday party. Nor does he mention that he stood next to the president in Riyadh to announce Saudi Arabia’s investment of as much as $20 billion in Blackstone’s first infrastructure fund.

Schwarzman does go in depth on his appointment to lead a White House policy and strategy forum, and its disbanding when Trump’s remarks on the riots in Charlottesville sparked “fury” and put members of the forum “under pressure.”

“Even if we were acting with the best, nonpartisan and patriotic intentions, associating with this president was intolerable to many,” writes Schwarzman, whose net worth is $17.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Apparently, it hasn’t been intolerable to him. As he puts it, “I had learned not only to manage through crises, but also to create them for ourselves and our clients in order to provoke a change in the status quo that creates opportunity.”