NEW YORK Feb 19 (Reuters) - Blackstone Group LP President Tony James earned $64.2 million last week by selling a fraction of his stake in the world's largest alternative asset manager at a time when its shares are hovering near a five-year high.
James, who joined Blackstone in 2002 as co-founder Stephen Schwarzman's right-hand man and is credited with much of the company's expansion into asset classes beyond private equity, sold 3.5 million shares, referred to as common units, between Feb. 13 and Feb. 15, according to a filing submitted late on Feb. 15.
Blackstone's common units traded as high as $19.69 on Tuesday, their highest price since May 2008, as investors bet that a pick-up in deal activity will allow the New York-based company to profitably exit more of its investments and distribute dividends to shareholders.
The stock sale earned James more than he made as a top Blackstone executive in 2011, and leaves him with 7.8 million common units. In addition to the common units, he also held partnership units in Blackstone that totaled 34.1 million as of Feb. 17, 2012, according to the latest annual report.
The exact number of partnership units James currently holds in Blackstone is not yet available. His overall stake of around 4 percent, which comes mostly from the partnership units, is unlikely to have changed substantially as a result of last week's sale.
Blackstone declined to comment on James' stock sale.
James, also chief operating officer, holds part of his Blackstone units in a family trust. He received $52.6 million from salary, bonus and holdings in the private equity firm in 2011, according to the latest figures available. That compares with $54.8 million in 2010.
Blackstone completed an initial public offering in 2007, a move that provided liquidity to founders and senior executives that allows them to cash in on their stakes.
Among industry peers, KKR & Co LP, Apollo Global Management LLC and Carlyle Group LP followed Blackstone's move to go public, while TPG Capital LP and Silver Lake Partners LP have opted for private transactions, selling small stakes in themselves to raise cash.