(Changes day of party to Tuesday from Thursday, paragraph 3)
By Michael Flaherty
NEW YORK Feb 14 Comedian Martin Short, singer
Patti LaBelle, two Harlem choirs and a marching band had
already warmed up the crowd who gathered to celebrate the
birthday of Blackstone Group's chief executive.
But the party really got going when British rocker Rod
Stewart took the stage, later crooning "Tonight's The Night
(Gonna Be Alright)" to birthday boy Stephen Schwarzman and
hundreds of guests, according to those who attended.
For Schwarzman, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of
Blackstone [BG.UL], Tuesday night was indeed his night. The
last few years haven't been so bad either.
The Blackstone Group's success has brought his net worth to
around $2.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He
reportedly earned more than $200 million last year.
The over-the-top 60th birthday party highlighted the golden
era being enjoyed by Blackstone and other private equity firms,
which buy and sell companies.
For some, the party brought back memories of past high
times on Wall Street, like the junk bond frenzy led by Michael
Milken in the 1980s and the Internet boom in the late 1990s.
For others, it was a sign that a buyout bust could be just
around the corner.
"It's the kind of stuff that makes us think that we're at
the top," said an executive at another large private equity
firm, who did not attend the party.
Blackstone is riding high, recently sealing a deal to buy
Equity Office Properties Trust EOP.N for $39 billion, which
is the largest private equity deal ever if assumed debt is
The group is also raising $20 billion for what is expected
to be the largest buyout fund ever. And last year they did more
than $101.7 billion worth of deals, exluding acquired debt,
more than any other buyout firm, according to Dealogic.
FROM MOGULS TO CARDINALS
Tuesday's event reportedly cost more than $3 million and
the guest list was a "who's who" in the world of finance,
society, and politics.
At Schwarzman's table were New York Cardinal Edward Egan,
former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Lazard banker
Jeffrey Rosen. At another table were the chief executives of
major Wall Street banks, including Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, and
Bear Stearns, according to guests who attended the event.
Schwarzman's mother, his two grown children and
step-daughter were also there.
Among other party goers were real estate mogul Donald
Trump; civil rights lawyer and business leader Vernon Jordan;
television journalists Barbara Walters and Charlie Rose; New
Jersey governer Jon Corzine; and former New York governor
Several guests commented that they could easily look back
in a few years and point to it as the high point of a private
equity bubble, according to a person who attended.
What worries buyout firms like Blackstone, which borrow
most of the money to finance their deals, is a pullback in the
For now, Blackstone and others are enjoying the fun while
The guests ate lobster and beef tournedo. A band in tuxedos
and red sashes marched through the dinner crowd to kick off the
music portion of the night.
AN 'INTIMATE' AFFAIR
Two Harlem choirs backed up LaBelle, who sang a song
composed by Marvin Hamlisch poking fun at Schwarzman and his
As master of ceremonies, Short gestured to the massive hall
of the Seventh Regiment Armory on New York's Upper East side
and joked that Schwarzman had planned to hold the party at his
apartment but decided on something more intimate.
Schwarzman lives in a 20-room, $30 million apartment at 740
Park Avenue, a storied address that has housed members of the
Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Bouvier, and Chrysler families.
Where his counterparts at other big buyout firms tend to
come off as gruff and unapproachable, Schwarzman is the
opposite. Standing about five and a half feet tall and fairly
fit, Schwarzman is a charmer and a master of schmooze.
In his speech, he paid tribute to his wife Christine and
gave a nod to three guests in particular: New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne and Martin
Sorrell, the chief executive of advertising and marketing
company WPP Group. They, like Schwarzman, were born on