Stephen A. Schwartzman is chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, the super aggressive, super
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.
CapComm: Your point about CEO sycophants is well taken. Too many CEOs are surrounded by people too afraid to tell them what’s right and wrong. The end result can be an out-of-control CEO and an accident waiting to happen.
If part of the problem with executive excess is syncophants, then we’ll have to include U.S. presidential administrations in the same group.
Didn’t any of these people read “The Emperor’s New Clothes” when they were little?
I agree with you, Steve, with one caveat–why does it matter if they head a private or a public company? While your point about heading a public company and drawing attention to oneself is well taken, I think this kind of avarice in any case only works to foster a reputation for shallow egocentrism.
It’s unfortunate, too, that there are always plenty of sycophants out there willing to try bolstering their own reputations by being seen with and riding the coattails of big spenders like Schwartzman. In this way, Schwartzman and others like him work to churn out a whole new crop of self-serving executives.