Yes, he runs a global multi-trillion-dollar firm with 8,500 employees and a market capitalization of around $40 billion. Yes, he is on the speed dial of everyone important in Washington and on Wall Street, has a regular table at San Pietro, raked in over $40 million last year, and is one of, if not the, most powerful people in finance today. But inside, Blackrock’s Larry Fink is still the guy who was fired from his job at First Boston 22 years ago in what one of his peers recalls as a “public and really awful” way, and should you mention that, or any of Fink’s other failures, it all comes rushing back and suddenly he’s Fired Larry all over again, not to mention all of the other failure incarnations of himself: Fat Larry and Loser Larry and Smelly Ethnic Food for Lunch Larry. Vanity Fair’s Susanna Andrews found this out recently, when she brought up Blackrock’s recent, doomed acquisition of Stuyvesant Town, which lost huge amounts of money for Blackrock and several of its major clients, including the California Pension and Retirement System.
At the mention of these blunders, Fink, who has been sprawled in his chair, suddenly stiffens. His voice takes on a harsh tone that is leavened only by his visible anxiety. “When you manage money, you are going to make mistakes. You are not going to be 100 percent perfect. Our job is to minimize those problems, to cauterize them,” Fink says, his voice rising. “We’re not perfect, and I’ve never said to anyone that we are going to be perfect. Our investors had all the information we did and they did their own due diligence.” He exhales deeply. “Our real-estate division is struggling because of bad performance, and we’re making changes. I don’t care if the whole industry blew up, our job is to do better than the industry, and we didn’t in real estate,” he says. “I am not making excuses. I lose sleep over these problems.” The Stuyvesant Town loss was “an embarrassment,” he says. Then his voice drops to a whisper. “I mean, my mother gets her pension from calpers.”
Andrews says that she found the emotional intensity of his reaction “startling,” but we understand — obviously it’s not just for himself that he’s upset. Because without her pension, HOW WOULD HIS MOTHER LIVE?