Blackstone’s Tony James, executive vice-chairman, to retire

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    In his nearly 20 years at the private-equity firm, James helped CEO Stephen Schwarzman shape the business into an investment giant

    Hamilton “Tony” James, who helped transform Blackstone Inc. BX 2.61% from a small private-equity shop into an investment giant with $731 billion in assets across numerous business lines, is leaving the company.
    Mr. James, who is currently serving as Blackstone’s executive vice chairman, will retire in January after a nearly 20-year career there, firm officials said.
    He joined Blackstone in 2002 in the role of president and chief operating officer, helping co-founder and Chief Executive Stephen Schwarzman shape the business into a dominant financial company whose market capitalization, at $169 billion, now exceeds that of Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
    Mr. James, 70 years old, oversaw the firm’s 2007 initial public offering and led the acquisitions of GSO, the foundation of Blackstone’s giant credit arm, and its $45 billion secondaries-investment business, Strategic Partners.
    He also helped create Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities business, which makes investments that don’t fit neatly into a private-equity or credit bucket.
    “We would not have gotten as far as we have, nor would Blackstone be the firm that it is today, without his talent, commitment and managerial strength,” Mr. Schwarzman said in a memo Thursday to Blackstone employees that was seen by The Wall Street Journal.
    A well-known supporter of Democratic candidates, Mr. James has served as a counterweight to Mr. Schwarzman, a prominent Republican known for his support of former President Donald Trump.
    Before joining Blackstone, Mr. James worked for 25 years at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, helping orchestrate the sale of the investment bank to what is now Credit Suisse Group AG in 2000. At the time, DLJ’s private-equity business was bigger than Blackstone’s, and Mr. James thought he could help Blackstone catch up while also cultivating its fledgling real-estate, credit and hedge-fund businesses.
    He says he realized early on that success would depend on a combination of careful planning and nimbleness.
    “You can’t plan years ahead because markets change so radically, so what you need to do is set up the business to be ready to seize the opportunity when it comes,” Mr. James told the Journal.
    In 2018, Mr. James ceded the president and COO roles to Jonathan Gray, after grooming Mr. Gray for years. Mr. Gray is now seen as the heir apparent to Mr. Schwarzman.
    “One of my proudest things about Blackstone is the smoothness of the transition,” Mr. James said.
    He said he now plans to devote his time to charitable activities, including an organization he established to support students from historically Black colleges and universities.
    He is co-chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and chairman of the finance committee at Mount Sinai Hospital System. Mr. James also serves as chairman of Costco Wholesale Corp.

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