Steve Schwarzman: Wall Street’s arch dealmaker

Steve Schwarzman has had an illustrious career in finance, while his friendship with Donald Trump has made him a pivotal figure in the US-China trade war. Yet he remains a relative unknown. Jane Lewis reports.

Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman © JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

"A most unusual manunknown to most Americans", is how the doyen of US business culture, Steve Forbes, describes Steve Schwarzman. It's a strangely amorphous introduction to the co-founder of Blackstone, one of the world's largest asset managers especially since, according to Forbes, Schwarzman's "entrepreneurial bent" has made him "the most influential" American financier "since the original J.P. Morgan".

A good locust

During the financial crisis, Schwarzman played a useful role advising the US Treasury. His international connections and longtime friendship with Donald Trump have since seen him emerge as a "back channel in US-China relations", says Lionel Barber in the Financial Times. Much in demand among peers as a "Trump whisperer", he's a prolific philanthropist who has built one of the most successful businesses on the planet. Yet Steve Schwarzman has "never quite received the credit he believes he deserves".

Schwarzman grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a Jewish shopkeeper whose lack of ambition baffled him. Schwarzman says he inherited "the right gene mix" from his mother, "a very formidable, strong survivor" who understood the power of social connections. She helped get him to Yale, where he joined the exclusive Skull and Bones secret society, and he never looked back. After Harvard Business School, he joined Lehman Brothers where he indulged his latent love of beauty and comfort by lavishly redecorating his office. "I wanted... a cocoon against all the psychological stresses of my work, like a... library in an English house".

From Lehman to Blackstone

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