Feb 25

The ultra rich are different than you and me

Stephen A. Schwartzman is chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, the super aggressive, superSchwarzman
successful private equity firm that recently went public.

A profile in the New Yorker chronicles Schwartzman’s rise to the top, paying particular attention to his Machiavellian management style and his Dennis Kozlowski-like personal excesses.

It’s the latter that registered on my image and reputation radar screen. A recent Schwartzman Christmas party, for example, boasted a James Bond theme, featuring models circulating as ‘Bond girls’ and a tuxedo-clad Schwartzman himself posing as ‘Bond. James Bond.’ I wonder if Moneypenny and Q were in attendance as well?

Not content with merely emulating the Ian Fleming playboy, Schwartzman pulled out all the stops at his recent 60th birthday bash. He literally transformed the Park Avenue Armory into a replica of his $37 million Manhattan apartment, replete with a full length portrait of himself. Dinner was served in a faux night club setting with orchids and palm trees. Comedian Martin Short handled MC duties and Marvin Hamlisch, Patti LaBelle and Rod Stewart serenaded him and his guests.

Not bad. Not bad at all. But, not smart for the CEO of a publicly-traded company either. What don’t the Schwartzman, Ebbers, Schrushy and Kozlowski of the business world get? It’s one thing to live life in an opulent, in-your-face manner if one’s finances are private. But, living the high life a la Stephen Schwartzman, is a sure fire way to attract some aspiring whistle blower’s or district attorney’s attention.

I’m not suggesting Blackstone’s big boy has done anything wrong but, if he has, throwing a 007-themed gala might not be the smartest way to stay under cover.