First Round: Tony James's moment of clarity

Tony James, and the evils of 'clarity equity'

First Round is a big admirer of The Blackstone Group’s Tony James. Anyone who can pull off being Steve Schwarzman’s human shield with such graceful equanimity clearly has a lot going for them. And during his time as BX’s front man, he has managed to adroitly position himself as one of the industry’s most visible and vocal advocates – without making any embarrassing comments about noodle salesmen in Nagasaki or such like. Easier said than done, First Round is sure you’ll agree. 

However, there are lines in the sand – lines that exist for a reason. And TJ definitely crossed one of those lines in the firm’s fourth quarter earnings call, when he suggested that private equity should rename itself ‘clarity equity’ – because it brings clarity to a company’s priorities, or to management’s incentive, or something along those lines. To be honest, First Round wasn’t paying particularly close attention to the explanation, because it was too busy RETCHING AT THE MERE MENTION of the term ‘clarity equity’.

Now it must be said: FR is no PR. The dark arts of corporate communication are as much a mystery to this section as the vagaries of string theory (as indeed they are to a large number of people who work in PR, to be fair). And it is quite prepared to accept – even as a magazine intro section with a deeply vested interest in the status quo – that private equity could do with a rebrand, given that the current name does have some unfortunate associations these days.

However, it is surely not alone in considering this mooted Jacobean moniker to be potentially one of the great linguistic and marketing crimes of the modern era. The day this magazine gets renamed Clarity Equity International is the day that First Round hangs up its laptop and goes back to making balloon animals at birthday parties. Please, Tony – just think of the children!