“Hey, Zibby!” said Stephen Schwarzman.
The 60-year-old chairman and C.E.O. of global corporate buyout behemoth Blackstone Group had stopped the business before a standing-room-only crowd gathered last Thursday at the Pierre Hotel to hear “Wall Street’s Man of the Moment” (so dubbed recently by Fortune) lay out Blackstone’s public offering of more than $4 billion in stock, a proposal that would propel Mr. Schwarzman’s own net worth over the $7 billion mark.
So who answers a cell phone at an I.P.O. announcement in front of hundreds of investors? And why?
And who was this Zibby?
That was the easy part: The call was from his daughter, 30-year-old Elizabeth, a.k.a. “Zibby.” And the news was good, in a week of generally extraordinary news for Mr. Schwarzman—the patriarch of private equity informed the audience: He was a grandpa! And talk about multiples: twins!
Mr. Schwarzman immediately exited from the stage, leaving Blackstone’s president, Tony James, to carry on with the firm’s all-important stock-shill fest, leaving many in the crowd to wonder: Was this staged? If it was, it accomplished two things immediately: It replaced the ambitious, grasping Stephen Schwarzman with a warm, caring grandfatherly Stephen Schwarzman.
And it established Mr. James as Mr. Schwarzman’s capable stand-in and partner, rather than the almost invisible subordinate he had been.
It was Tony Blair and Gordon Brown!
Spectators wondered: Who had planned this amazing piece of staging? And what did the new Stephen Schwarzman do with the calculating Stephen Schwarzman who’d been profiled a day earlier in The Wall Street Journal?
Almost overnight, it seemed, the shrewd takeover titan known for referencing Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko “lunch is for wimps” remark from Wall Street had remark been replaced with Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life.
“It was important from a perceptional standpoint to get him out of the action quickly,” said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who’s been closely following the chief executive’s recent drama.
A day earlier, The Journal had come out with a front-page story portraying Mr. Schwarzman as a greedy “little man” with cold-blooded business instincts, who devoured $40 crab claws for lunch and whined about his poolside servant’s squeaky shoes. The author quoted Mr. Schwarzman’s own mother saying that money is “what drives him”; it was, she said, his “measuring stick.”
But then his cell phone rang.