You wouldn’t know from looking at him or the Roman numerals after his name, but Kendrick Wilson is a bit of a rough-and-tumble sort of fellow. Back at Dartmouth, he was forced to take a “mandatory sabbatical” owing to academic and disciplinary problems, and then joined the army as a Ranger, right at the height of the Vietnam War. Colleagues recall his subsequent career as a banker at Goldman Sachs and other institutions as a series of arguments and “power struggles,” and two years ago, he agreed to engage in “hand-to-hand combat” again for his country when his college buddy, Hank Paulson, asked him to serve as an adviser to the Treasury at the height of the financial crisis. But Wilson’s apparent nerves of steel aren’t the only reason Larry Fink hired him as a vice-chairman at his $3.35 trillion firm Blackrock. It’s because Wilson was the only person with the ability to manage the impossible: make Steve Schwartzman stop wailing and crying like a little girl.
It was 1994 and Fink was struggling to persuade Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s CEO, to sell Fink’s asset-management business, BlackRock Inc., so he could raise capital to fuel growth. Schwarzman was balking, and after some emotional battles, Fink said, he turned the talks over to Wilson, a Lazard Freres & Co. banker. Wilson soothed the bruised feelings and found a buyer for Blackstone’s 100 percent stake.
It takes a special man to know how to soothe a tiny billionaire.