On the Inside, Steve Schwarzman Is Still Just a Short Kid From Philly

Schwarzman

Photo Illustration: Getty Images, WireImage

Blackstone CEO and co-founder Steve Schwarzman comes across almost like a real-live human being in James B. Stewart's profile of him in this week's New Yorker, which traces the titan's childhood as the son of a dry-goods store owner in suburban Philadelphia (at 15, he is stymied by his father's reluctance to expand said store into a national chain, “like Sears”) through the infamously lavish 60th-birthday party that helped make Schwarzman the poster child for greed and self-indulgence of the new gilded age. But despite the fact that he has a net worth of at least $10 billion, “I don’t feel like a wealthy person," Schwarzman tells Stewart, cracking a window into his psyche. Contrary to his actions, he's also not entirely obtuse: "Private equity is seen as a symbol of the people who are prospering from a world in flux. That’s a lightning-rod situation.”

• “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.”

• Until recently, Mr. Schwarzman had trouble booking a prime table in the Grill Room for lunch. When Mr. Schwarzman asked Blackstone co-founder Pete Peterson why, Mr. Peterson was said to have replied: “It takes more than just money.”

• On the five properties he owns, altogether valued at $125 million: “I love houses. I’m not sure why.”

• On the root of his ambition: “My father was very bright. My mother had enormous drive. Put that together, and that’s my gene pool.”

• On how it feels to be a subject of ridicule in the press. “How does it feel? Unattractive. No thinking person wants to be reduced to a caricature."

• On the birthday party: “It’s a reminder that life is fleeting,” he said. “Every day should be a good day. People fool themselves that they’ll be here forever. I get a daily wake-up call that that’s not true. We have limited time, and we have to maximize it. Live life intensely — I’ve always believed in that. I’m happy to be here. I was happy to make it to 60.”

The Birthday Party [NYer]
Related: Greed Is Good and Ugly [NYM]