At age 31, Stephen Schwarzman was Managing Director of Lehman Brothers, one of Wall Street's leading investment banking firms, but after merging Lehman with American Express, he chose to strike out on his own. With one partner, two employees and less than half a million in start-up cash, he set out to compete with Wall Street's reigning giants.
From these unpromising beginnings, Schwarzman built America's leading private equity firm, The Blackstone Group, and made brilliant strategic investments in almost every sector of the economy. After completing the largest leveraged buyout in history to acquire some of America's most profitable real estate, he took his firm public in the biggest initial public offering recorded to date, giving ordinary investors a chance to participate in Blackstone's unprecedented success.
Schwarzman's investments made him a very rich man, but they also made the American economy more efficient and productive, rescuing troubled companies from insolvency and building small companies into big ones. Although Blackstone and its holdings declined along with the rest of the economy in the global credit crisis of 2008, the firm and its Chairman remain major figures in the world financial scene. In addition to his achievements in finance, Stephen Schwarzman is one of his country's leading patrons of the arts and culture; in recognition of his generosity, the main branch of the New York City Public Library now bears his name.