Billionaire With Philly Roots Joins Trump’s Economic Team

Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of Blackstone Group, is now the chair of President-elect Donald Trump's economic advisory team.
Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of Blackstone Group, is now the chair of President-elect Donald Trump’s economic advisory team.

President-elect Donald Trump has invested in a locally raised man who knows a thing or two about investments.

Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of the world’s largest private equity firm, Blackstone Group, will chair Trump’s economic advisory team, formally the Strategic and Policy Forum.

He established Blackstone in 1985. His 20 percent stake in his company is worth more than $5.5 billion, according toThe Wall Street Journal, yielding him hundreds of millions a year in dividends. The company manages $361 billion in assets and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

The 69-year-old’s personal wealth is estimated at $11 billion, according to Forbes.

The forum “will be called upon to meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his plan to bring back jobs and Make America Great Again,” read a press release from Blackstone.

Matt Anderson, senior vice president of Global Public Affairs at Blackstone, said this forum will be held in a nonpartisan and non-bureaucratic fashion.

“These are the best and brightest in the business community, and they represent a wide variety of sectors,” Anderson told the Jewish Exponent. “It provides a window into broad sectors of the economy. Blackstone is one of the largest employers around the globe through its investments in various companies.”

Schwarzman, along with 15 other forum members, will provide their individual views on “how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity.” The first forum meeting will be in February 2017.

“This forum brings together CEOs and business leaders who know what it takes to create jobs and drive economic growth,” said Trump in the press release. “My administration is committed to drawing on private sector expertise and cutting the government red tape that is holding back our businesses from hiring, innovating and expanding right here in America.”

Schwarzman is one of six members on that team who are Jewish or have Jewish ties, according toJTA, including Daniel Yergin, Mark Weinberger, Larry Fink, Bob Iger and Kevin Warsh.

Regulatory changes are planned to be made from the forum, such as reversing executive actions quickly, according to Business Insider, as well as tax reform.

These changes intend to increase U.S. economic growth and attract foreign investments.

“It doesn’t require any Democrats, assuming the Republicans vote as a block,” Schwarzman said at a recent Goldman Sachs conference, according to Business Insider. “Both Republicans and Democrats have wanted tax reform but they couldn’t do it for ideological reasons, and now don’t have to worry about those ideological reasons because if you get enough votes, you can just change the law.”

The Exponent reached out to Schwarzman, who now lives in New York, but he was unavailable for comment.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School, Schwarzman rose through the ranks at Lehman Brothers before making it on his own with Blackstone alongside Peter Peterson.

(The Blackstone name derives from their own — “Schwarz” means “black” in German and Yiddish, while “Peter” means “stone” in Greek.)

Schwarzman was raised in Huntingdon Valley, attended Huntington Junior High School, which no longer exists, and graduated from Abington Senior High School in 1965.

His family owned a dry goods store on Frankford Avenue, and he gained business experience as a kidselling light bulbs door-to-door and candy bars for the Boy Scouts of America.

In 2004, he donated $400,000 for the construction of a new football stadium at Abington Senior High School, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Stadium.

According to an article provided by Abington School District, Schwarzman was quoted at the time of the donation as saying that “Abington High School had an enormous impact on my life, academically and through its athletic programs, and it’s a great opportunity for me to give something back.”

Schwarzman had played on the varsity winter and spring track team and varsity soccer team.

Schwarzman has been known as a philanthropist in other sectors as well.

He established a scholarship program in his name, Schwarzman Scholars, which educates future leaders about China at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Students can earn a one-year master’s degree there in either public policy, economics and business, or international studies.

He donated $100 million to the New York Public Library and is on the board of several other nonprofits. He has raised money for both Jewish and Catholic causes — his wife, Christine, is Roman Catholic — such as the Archdiocese of New York and the American Jewish Committee.

In previous years, however, Schwarzman has spurred some controversy from his opinions.

In 2010, he was addressing board members of a nonprofit, discussing a government proposal to increase taxes on private equity firms, when he claimed that “it’s a war” over the struggle with the administration, according to Newsweek.

“It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939,” Schwarzman was reported as saying to describe the tax to the group.

The comment was sparked from his disdain for President Barack Obama’s proposed tax compensation structure in 2008, which would force wealthy hedge fund managers to pay their fair share of taxes.

But in 2016, he’s focused on aiding the president-elect, who he said does not care about partisanship but rather “wisdom and judgment.”

“[Trump] asked if there would be any chance that we can meet on a regular basis to provide advice in areas where he wasn’t as familiar,” Schwarzman told CNBC in a recent interview, “and ideally if possible he asked me if I would form a group of terrific people who were experienced and wise and sort of experts in their field to join for meetings where he would be able to learn from them.

“Donald comes from the financial services world,” he continued in the interview. “He tends to pick people who he is comfortable with and who are confident. That is where that comes from rather than any desire [to] reward any sector.”

Schwarzman added in the interview that this will not be a full-time position for him.

“If I can use my background for productive things for other people to keep the country on a good course, to help out, to tell people what you know if it is useful, then I’m very happy to do that,” he said. “Not to make this about me, [but] the people that were recruited for the forum, both Republicans and Democrats, their motives are all the same [as mine].”

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