For Schwarzman’s Birthday, a Different Place and Symbolism
Birthday bash in 2007 made him private equity’s ‘designated villain.’
(Bloomberg) -- Steve Schwarzman wants to stay out of the inevitable media glare Saturday night when he gathers with guests at the billionaire’s Four Winds estate in Palm Beach, Florida, to celebrate his 70th birthday.
It’s no wonder. His lavish 60th birthday bash at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan became a symbol in the months that followed of Wall Street excess, as the financial crisis began to bite and stocks lurched into a two-year descent that wiped away almost $10 trillion in market value. The New Yorker took a look back a year later in a piece titled, “The Birthday Party: How Stephen Schwarzman became private equity’s designated villain.”
Fast forward 10 years and stocks are back, having more than tripled since the depths of the crisis to reach new heights. Schwarzman, the Blackstone Group chief executive officer who decried former President Barack Obama’s policies, has taken on a role advising President Donald Trump. He chose Palm Beach to avoid the New York City spotlight for his black-tie affair, according to a person who heard him explain his reasons at a recent social event.
A couple of things are hindering that plan. For one, since party planning began, Palm Beach has also become the home of the winter White House, and Trump is expected to be in town this weekend, along with the usual media horde. Avoiding the press gets harder when, as Schwarzman did, you fly to Florida the weekend before on Air Force One, after a meeting with the president at the White House.
But the Trump effect might also mean the climate has changed for conspicuous displays of wealth. After all, the president forged his public image on the basis of wealth and a lavish lifestyle, and still won the hearts of many voters struggling to get by.
The invitation hardly suggests a modest affair. It arrived with a video hinting that the theme will be an exotic journey: An old-fashioned boat crosses animated illustrations of Venice, Arabia and Mongolia, and then arrives at Schwarzman’s Mediterranean-style Palm Beach estate, said a person who’s on the invite list.
It’s a celebration on a street known as Billionaires’ Row suited to a man who’s had a pretty great decade. The private equity titan has grown richer, become more philanthropic, more global and more influential since his Park Avenue celebration, where guests including Trump and his wife Melania were transported into a replica of Schwarzman’s nearby apartment. His fortune in the past four years surged to $10.9 billion from $6.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The past decade also featured grand philanthropic moves. Schwarzman gave $100 million to the New York Public Library and $150 million to Yale -- putting his name on buildings there. He also started the Schwarzman Scholars program in China, which he hopes to make as respected as the Rhodes. The effort took $100 million of his own money, and he raised hundreds of millions more.
Schwarzman’s recent appointment as chairman of Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum helps make the party a hot ticket. Among the expected guests: Wilbur Ross, the private-equity magnate and Commerce secretary-nominee, as well as Blackstone colleagues Tony James and Tom Hill. Speculation that Trump will come by has prompted protesters to plan a march on Schwarzman’s home on State Road A1A, the Miami Herald reported. The president traveled to his nearby Mar-a-Lago resort with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a weekend of golf after their meeting Friday in Washington.
Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for New York City said Schwarzman has evolved over the two decades she’s known him into a civic and philanthropic leader on the model of the Rockefeller family, which inspires the work of the partnership.
“There’s a point in life where you put all the pieces together so they connect -- I’ve seen that happen with him,” Wylde said. “The Schwarzman Scholars is clearly a manifestation of that, in terms of understanding the importance of the global relationships and particularly with China, and the importance of building the next generation of leadership.”
Schwarzman accepted the David Rockefeller Award at a luncheon Tuesday at the Museum of Modern Art.
Over a lunch of tuna tartar, chicken paillard and blood-orange sorbet, Schwarzman regaled guests with an endearing story about David Rockefeller visiting his New York apartment -- the same apartment where Rockefeller once lived, a person who attended the event said. They walked together through the rooms, Schwarzman told guests.
Another reason to take Rockefeller as a role model: He’ll celebrate his 102nd birthday in June.
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