Peter Peterson, the Genius Pigpen of Blackstone


"At times, he seemed to inhabit his own world," David Carey and John Morris write of the billionaire financier and onetime Secretary of Commerce in their new Blackstone hagiography, King of Capital.

"He would arrive at meetings with yellow Post-It notes adorning his suit jacket, placed there by his secretary to remind him to attend some charity ball or to call a CEO the next morning. Howard Lipson, a long-time Blackstone partner, remembers seeing Peterson one blustery night sporting a bulky winter hat. Affixed to its crown was a note: 'Pete — don't forget your hat.'"

He also has trouble performing ordinary tasks:

Lipson recalls, too, the terror and helplessness Peterson would express when his secretary stepped away and he was forced to answer his own phone. "'Patty! Patty!' he'd yowl."

But that's because, as the rest of this anecdote illustrates, Peterson is not a ordinary man.

"During investment committee and management committee meetings he would scribble away furiously on yellow legal pads, preparing his next speech or book. But his brain could entertain more than one intricate line of thought at a time. Jonathan Colby, who worked at Blackstone from 1989 to 1996, describes his first job interview with Peterson. It began in Peter's office, then shifted to a limo that took Peterson to an event where he was to speak. Peterson drafted his speech in the car, scribbling away on his legal pad the whole time, while Colby talked on, Colby says. Later that evening, Colby met with Schwarzman back at Blackstone's offices. 'Steve asked me how it went with Pete. I told him I didn't think Pete had heard a word I said. So Steve called up Pete at home and asked him what I'd said. Pete was able to repeat all of it, virtually verbatim.'"

King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone [Amazon]

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