Blackstone names new head

In the latest high-profile private equity succession announcement, The Blackstone Group announced the appointment of Hamilton James as president, replacing Stephen Schwarzman, a founder of the firm.

New York-headquartered Blackstone Group announced today the appointment of Hamilton James as the firm’s president. He previously held the title of vice chairman.

James, 53, will succeed industry veteran Stephen Schwarzman, who founded the firm in 1985 alongside Peter Peterson, in the role. 57-year-old Schwarzman will become chairman while retaining his role as chief executive, a position he has held since the firm’s inception. Peterson, the 78-year-old former chairman, will assume the newly created position of senior chairman. These management changes will become effective at the beginning of 2005.

James joined Blackstone from Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) two years ago. At CSFB, he headed up the firm’s global investment banking and private equity business. Prior to CSFB, James spent 25 years building up the private equity business of Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette.

At Blackstone, James has worked on some of the firm’s largest transactions, including the acquisition of water services company Ondeo Nalco last year and the €3.1 billion ($4.1 billion) take-private of German chemical maker Celanese.

The announcement comes prior to Blackstone re-entering the fundraising market in 2005. The firm plans to raise a successor fund to the $6.45 billion vehicle it raised in 2002.

Commenting on James’ appointment, Schwarzman said: “Part of the maturity of any business is that one needs to plan for bad things. If anything happened to me personally, investors and clients should feel there is someone completely capable of assuming my responsibility.”

Schwarzman added: “I will continue to be fully engaged in the role of overseeing the firm’s full range of businesses and its investment processes, a role in which I have served for the past 19 years”.

Blackstone’s management committee remains unchanged. In addition to James, Schwarzman and Peterson, the group includes:  Tom Hill, vice chairman of Blackstone; Mark Gallogly, senior managing director and head of the private equity group; and Michael Puglisi, senior managing director and chief financial officer.

A number of large private equity firms with high-profile founders have been addressing the issue of succession recently. Earlier this year, Tom Hicks, co-founder of Dallas buyout firm Hicks Muse Tate & Furst announced his plan to retire from the business by the end of the year.