Schwarzman under the spotlight

February 5, 2008


The New Yorker’s profile of Stephen Schwarzman suggests that being a billionaire is a lot more unpleasant than you might think.

Schwarzman has taken a lot of flak for his fancy 60th birthday party, his reported passion for crab that costs $40 a claw, and his luxurious homes.

Author James Stewart asks the Blackstone boss how it felt to be the focus of so much negative attention. Here’s an extract from the end of the piece:

He paused, and his look hardened.

“How does it feel? Unattractive. No thinking person wants to be reduced to a caricature.” He continued, “Why did this happen? We went public in June, 2007, at the top of a giant bull market, with a society undergoing rapid change. Globalization. Job dislocation. Middle-class anxiety. Private equity is seen as a symbol of the people who are prospering from a world in flux. That’s a lightning-rod situation.”

The profile notes he was “wounded” by a Wall Street Journal article in June which talked about his “now notorious birthday party” and was stunned by the intense coverage of Blackstone’s IPO. Schwarzman, one of the world’s richest people, describes how it feels — or doesn’t feel, to be wealthy.

 ”I don’t feel like a wealthy person. Other people think of me as a wealthy person, but I don’t. I feel the same as when I was a fifth-year associate trying to make partner at Lehman Brothers. I haven’t changed. I still think of Blackstone as a small firm. We have to prove ourselves in every deal. Every piece of paper is important. I’m always still trying.”

Maybe he doesn’t feel wealthy. But as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, the rich “are different from you and me.”


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