- Alex Wong/Getty
Steven Schwarzman is Wall Street’s King of Capital.
The cofounder of The Blackstone Group is a multi-billionaire, ranking 38 in the most recent Forbes rich list with a net worth of $11.6 billion.
He can be seen hobnobbing with public figures ranging from the Pope to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
The leveraged buyout boss had humble beginnings, however. He studied at Yale before getting started on Wall Street in 1969.
That first stint didn’t last long however, with Schwarzman later saying: “I had no economics. I had no ability to read a financial statement. I had never had accounting. They gave me an office and a secretary and some annual reports and assignments. I didn’t even know how to approach it.”
He later spent a stint in the Army Reserves before completing his MBA at Harvard and returning to Wall Street with Lehman Brothers. The rest is history.
Business Insider tracks Schwarzman’s incredible life so far:
Steve Schwarzman was born in Philadelphia and stayed close by growing up.
- Wikimedia Commons
Schwarzman was born in Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day, 1947, and attended school in Abington, Pennsylvania, growing up. His father ran a dry goods store in Philadelphia. That gave him motivation to find something else to do, he would say in a later interview.
“[I]t provided a unique model of something I did not want to do… I found it an absolutely horrible way to spend time. I didn’t like waiting on customers, I didn’t like folding merchandise. I didn’t like dusty basements where you had to mark merchandise, and I decided that whatever I did in life, that would not be part of it.”
He wouldn’t forget his hometown roots, later in life. There’s now a football stadium at his old high school named for him after a hefty donation.
Schwarzman attended college at Yale after graduating high school.
- Via Wikimedia Commons
Unlike so many other Wall Street pros, he didn’t major in economics. He said in an interview:
“[T]his was the 1960s, when everything was touchy-feeling. I was in an interdisciplinary major — which was a new thing then — which was psychology, sociology, anthropology and biology, which is really sort of the study of the human being.”
He did join Yale’s prestigious Skull & Bones secret society in his senior year. According to a New Yorker profile of Schwarzman, he wrangled key introductions for his Wall Street career through his job at Yale’s alumni office.
Schwarzman joined Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette after graduating Yale in 1969.
Schwarzman met Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette CEO Bill Donaldson while working as a waiter at Yale, according to a profile by The Wall Street Journal. He only had a short stint at the bank however.
Schwarzman spent some time in the Army Reserves before returning to banking.
- US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
Schwarzman would later say he felt out of place at DFJ:
“I thought, a complete failure at this job. I had no economics. I had no ability to read a financial statement. I had never had accounting. They gave me an office and a secretary and some annual reports and assignments. I didn’t even know how to approach it. I’m pretty good on my feet, I’m pretty decent at bobbing and weaving, but there’s only so long you can bob and weave when you don’t have a good base. So it became clear to me, without anybody advising me, that leaving myself in an environment where I was intellectually unprepared was a danger not only to me but to everybody that I had anything to do with.”
Not too long into his time with DFJ, Schwarzman would leave to complete a stint in the Army Reserves.
In 1972, Schwarzman graduated from Harvard Business School.
- Screenshot Via YouTube
Schwarzman attended business school at Harvard, where he would earn his MBA – and, meet his first wife. He was eager to get back to Wall Street after graduating. One profile of him reports he was stunned that he was rejected from Goldman Sachs as an applicant. Schwarzman has enjoyed a little schaudenfraude at the expense of everyone who has turned him down, however. Harvard turned Schwarzman’s undergraduate application down, he would later recount, but a school administration would later write him to say the university made the wrong call.
He was then hired at Lehman Brothers.
- Thomson Reuters
After graduating Harvard Business School, he joined Lehman Brothers. Schwarzman would get his big break in M&A after Tropicana – a Lehman client – requested the young banker work on one of its deals, despite his lack of experience. Schwarzman would eventually catapult himself into the role of managing director, and, later, chair of the M&A committee. He would remain there until the mid-1980s, when he had an idea.
Schwarzman launched Blackstone Group with one partner and less than a half-million dollars in 1985.
- REUTERS/STR New
Schwarzman launched Blackstone with his former Lehman Brothers colleague Pete Peterson as an investment banking boutique firm, according to a profile by The Wall Street Journal.
It rapidly shifted to buyouts – and billed itself as a friendly alternative to the firms which did ‘hostile’ transactions to take companies private. Many of Blackstone’s earliest deals were in real estate, which set the tone for its development.
Schwarzman would later say:
“I didn’t even understand it. I always felt uncomfortable with real estate, because buildings don’t move and neighborhoods change.”
Blackstone Group would become one of the US’ leading real estate investors.
- Antony Wood, CTBUH
Blackstone Group became a dominant investor in the real estate space, and has had successful deals over the years like Hilton Hotels and Equity Office Properties. Blackstone’s deals from 2015 include its investment in the Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly known as the Sears Tower) and Stuyvesant Town in New York City.
Blackstone has hoovered up assets.
The three letters LBO – standing for leveraged buyouts – are no longer the most important letters in the private equity business. These days, it’s “AUM,” or assets under management. And in that category, Schwarzman and Blackstone reign supreme. The private equity firm cracked the $300 billion mark in AUM earlier this year, making it tops in the industry for most cash managed.
Schwarzman married his second wife, Christina.
- REUTERS/Mike Theiler
Schwarzman married Christina Hearst in at a ceremony at his home in 1995. She was working as an intellectual property lawyer at the time. According to a profile of Schwarzman in the New Yorker, they would celebrate afterwards with a reception at the Frick Collection.
Schwarzman’s lavish parties have been exhaustively chronicled.
- Getty/Cindy Ord
Schwarzman has developed a reputation over the years for being able to put on quite a party. For his 60th birthday in 2007, the Blackstone CEO took over the Park Avenue Armory in midtown Manhattan. Attendees included former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Colin Powell and featured entertainers Martin Short, Patti LaBelle and Rod Stewart. The Armory was transformed into a large-scale version of Schwarzman’s home for the party, complete with a huge portrait of the birthday boy.
Schwarzman’s success has given him the opportunity to make enormous donations.
- Yale University
Schwarzman is quite the philanthropist. Schwarzman’s success at Blackstone has enabled him to make some outsized donations to match his private equity firm’s enormous investments. This includes a $100 million gift to the New York Public Library in 2008 and a $150 million check for Yale University, his undergrad alma mater, earlier this year.
Schwarzman today is the richest man in private equity.
- REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Today, Schwarzman is the richest man in private equity, ranking #38 on Forbes’ richest Americans list with a net worth of more than $11 billion. And it doesn’t seem like he’ll slow his roll any time soon – he’s expected to earn $1 billion in 2015, alone.
There are plenty of private equity CEOs with incredible personal stories…