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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


Stephen Schwarzman

Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group

I went back and met with my partner, and I said, "We're going to raise a billion dollars," and at that time, there were only two other organizations on the planet that had a billion dollars, and he said, "How can we do that? We don't have any experience." And I said, "I know we can." I said, "The time is right." We're in the '80s -- it's sort of 1986. There's enormous momentum. Leveraged buy-outs are becoming very popular. They're going on the covers of magazines, on the front pages of newspapers. There aren't enough vehicles to take advantage of this. We're well-known people. And he said, quite intelligently, "That's a long way from a billion dollars," and I said, "I just know we can do this, and in fact, if we tell people that we want a billion dollars, then if they were going to just give us $10 million for a small thing, they'll give us 50 million, okay, because we'll have scaled up expectations." And he said, "You know, I'm going to be a good partner, but I think we're biting off more than we can chew," and he was probably right. We ended up raising $850 million, going through enormous amounts of difficulty. We subsequently raised another 100 million from one of those investors. So we got to 960 actually, at the end, and it launched the firm in a scale where we always did very big things, because that's what I wanted to do. It's also what my partner wanted to do. He just didn't know that that was achievable. And you know, none of us knew, but he was a good enough partner and a smart enough man to also back my vision of what I thought was achievable.
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Stephen Schwarzman

Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group

We were in the recession and real estate was collapsing. Everybody wanted to sell real estate, and somebody brought us a deal which had a 15-percent yield on it, a bunch of apartment buildings. An -- ironically -- Little Rock, Arkansas, bankruptcy of a savings and loan. I don't know if it was the same one that was involved with, you know, the more popular things of the time, and we could borrow money off of that 15-percent yield and earn about 23, 24 percent at the bottom of a recession with apartments that were close to new. And I said, "Well, what can go wrong here? The economy can't go any worse than it is now. If the economy gets stronger, then rents will go up. It's hard to borrow money now " (at that time). And even with the difficulty of borrowing money, we were earning 24 percent on our equity. So I figured when times got better, money would be more available, interest rates would be down further, you could borrow more on the property, and so there was no downside, there was only upside. The present moment we were doing it was really already excellent. So why not just buy as much real estate as you could possibly find? And there was a whole country of real estate to be found at that time. Now to me, this doesn't go into the blinding insight mode. Anybody, when told those same facts, I would assume, would act rationally and would be buying real estate. In point of fact, the problem was everybody who would normally be buying real estate had already lost a fortune and was in no position, because most of them were either bankrupt or undergoing enormous difficulties with their existing properties. They couldn't go ahead, and if they went to a bank to borrow money, they were creating bankruptcies for the same banks, so the banks didn't want to talk to them, and we were sort of there alone with two or three other groups of people who had never been in real estate and saw the same things.
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Stephen Schwarzman

Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group

Stephen Schwarzman: When I was at Yale, I figured out what I wanted to do, but I didn't know it existed. I figured that I wanted to be a telephone switchboard -- and we don't have telephone switchboards, just about, anymore -- but I wanted to have coming in enormous amounts of data, I wanted it to go into a central processor, and I wanted some kind of output. But I really wanted the volumes of input, and I didn't know where in the world I could find a job like that. I didn't know it was investment banking. I didn't have any real understanding of investment banking, so I just started looking around, and I guessed Pan Am wasn't it, and advertising wasn't it. Consulting was okay, but nobody really listened to you. I mean they do, but usually you're hired for political purposes as often as real purposes. You know, have one executive's view be the controlling one, or to convince a board to do something that maybe they don't want to do. But I was very lucky. As soon as I sort of found this corporate finance field, I said, "That's it."
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Stephen Schwarzman

Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group

There was one of these development institutions, like the World Bank -- it had a different name -- and they had a variety of bonds outstanding, and each of those bonds had what's called covenants, which are really restrictions in them. The bank wanted to do something, but wasn't able to because some of these issues forbid them, and they still wanted to do something, but they couldn't get those bonds in. They couldn't call them. They were stuck with it. It was an important initiative, and everybody was real concerned. They didn't know what to do. So nobody could solve the problem, and I was one of the people working on this, and I remember going home at night and I often think of things when I'm sleeping. I don't sleep real deep REM stuff, and I woke up, and I said, "You know what? What's the problem here? The problem is that these bond-holders want to be protected for something, and what's the worst that can happen to them? The worst that can happen is, if you did the bad thing and it didn't work out, they'd lose their money, right?" So, I said, "Why don't we just take a bunch of money" -- because banks always have money -- "and just dedicate that money behind those bonds and go ahead and do whatever we want to do. Because the worst that can happen is that they lose their money, and if we assure them that they could never lose their money, then they don't have to worry. And if they don't have to worry, they have no cause for damages against the institution for going ahead and doing something. So I came in with some elaborate sort of proposal to do that for large amounts of money -- at that point, large amounts were hundreds of millions, now it would be tens of billions -- and everybody just sort of sat there and went, "Geez, no one's ever done this," and I said, "Well, so what? Aren't we addressing the problem?"
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Glenn Seaborg

Discoverer of Plutonium

Glenn Seaborg: Well, it was in Gilman Hall, Room 307. It was a stormy night. Art Wahl, my first graduate student, was performing the oxidation experiment and it was just clear that we were able to oxidize this new alpha particle emitter for the first time under conditions that no other element would be oxidized in that way. So that this led to the discovery and that was exciting. Perhaps another exciting point of my career was when I finally realized that the elements should fit in the periodic table as actinide elements. The actinide concept. I remember that I was preparing a report for a visiting committee to come on the following Monday and I dictated this report to one of the women in the laboratory, a chemist, but who was also able to take shorthand, and by the way who had been a classmate of mine at UCLA, and it was while I was dictating that report that this idea really crystallized. I said, "Oh, it must be this way." I dictated that concept, and that report -- just as it was dictated on that day in July of 1944 -- has been published in what is called the National Nuclear Energy Series, the Plutonium Project Record. That was certainly one of the most exciting moments of my life, when I just got this concept that this is the way the periodic table should be rearranged.
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John Sexton

Education & Law

Now, I got a great deal of credit, within legal education, for creating a paradigm shift in the way law is taught in the United States by starting and pressing at NYU something called "the Global Law School Initiative" -- which really kind of broke the boundaries of American kind of ethnocentrism about law. And there were a lot of things we did to implement that. So here I am climbing the Pyramid of Teotihuacan -- terrified, because I have a fear of heights, but I'm going to do this for my daughter. She's scampering up. And I hear Charlie's voice coming back to me, from 1958 -- very distinct memory of him -- we had read the Book of the Dead, he had the Pyramid of Giza on the wall -- and he says, "Boys -- " -- because we were all working-class kids, "Boys, you will never see these pyramids, because you can't drive to them. But there are pyramids south of here that you haven't heard of because the British did not rob them for their museums." And I said -- it was Charlie that first introduced me to ethnocentrism. And he really created the Global Law School Initiative. It wasn't me. It was just growing out -- and he was the one that impelled me into teaching. And when I started with the girls -- I mean, I worked with those kids a hundred hours a week, because I'd put them in a car on Thursday and we would drive off to wherever it was -- the tournament was -- that week, and we wouldn't be back 'til Sunday. And even as a sophomore, or junior or senior, as I was doing college, I was with them from three o'clock 'til ten o'clock every night, and then off on Thursday and back on Sunday. And then off for these six weeks. It was the center of my life -- which, of course, led to a terrible college record.
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John Sexton

Education & Law

John Sexton: Well, I think I'm a person who asks himself -- I mean, I think I live in a religious dimension. I think, you know, I take the notion of meaning in life and a transcendence seriously. I don't have a triumphal attitude, like -- my wife is Jewish, all my children and grandchildren are Jewish. But I do rejoice in any attempt -- whatever its cultural form -- at embracing the transcendent. So, I think it's an important subject.
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John Sexton

Education & Law

But I had come in relatively new, and I said, you know, "We could be still better, and we're probably not as good as we think we are, because people tend not to be sufficiently self-critical. And the way to do that is for us to come together as a community, and that means not being out of the building." And this meant that the faculty had to be present all of the time, and that we would move away from the practice of faculty being out as of-counsel to law firms -- which meant that the faculty, by giving those positions up and returning to be with their students and their colleagues, it meant huge financial sacrifices. Many of them were making multiples of what they would be paid as professors. But it was a calling to them -- it was a calling to them to the wonderful rewards of being in a learning and creating community. It wasn't a call out of the world of practice. I said, "Do all the cases that you want to do, but do them in the building. If you're good enough, the cases will come to you -- whether they're pro bono cases or remunerative is inconsequential, as long as you do them with colleagues and with students as laboratories of learning and you're engaged in the building."
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John Sexton

Education & Law

Now, the interesting thing about NYU is it carries in it the kind of blood of immigrants. It's very much -- it was founded by Albert Gallatin to be, in his words, "In and of the city." I mean, we embrace New York -- which tends to be a tremendous locational endowment for us, that we have, in a unique way -- I mean, Columbia, you could take Columbia and put it in Iowa and it would be a great university. If you took NYU and put it in Iowa, we would die, because we are symbiotically tied to the city. We're the second largest property owner in the city, I think. And yet we don't have a single gate. We don't have a single blade of grass. You walk out of our buildings, you're on the sidewalk. Except for Washington Square, where many of our buildings are but not most, the building next to an NYU building is likely not to be an NYU building. We're eco-systematic with the city. So this wonderful place has in it the blood of the immigrants. And, of course, the characteristics of that blood is never to be satisfied. I mean, immigrants come yearning for a "better." And the wonderful thing about NYU is it never will proclaim that it's in its golden age. Each generation seeks to be better in the next generation.
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John Sexton

Education & Law

Academic freedom, it strikes me, is something that everyone in the university should have, not just the tenured professors. It may well be that tenured professors get a job security that looks like academic freedom. But we wouldn't want a university where only those people enjoyed the benefits of academic freedom. So, to the extent that you make academic freedom depend on tenure, it seems to me, you're being seriously under-inclusive. So, I think that we have to safeguard academic freedom generally and robustly, severed from the notion of tenure.
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