So the People's Republic of China will be a direct investor in Blackstone. A year ago, this would hardly have seemed plausible, and even in today's heady market, news of the deal left many stunned. Still, it seems just the sort of thing that happens in private equity nowadays. Steve Schwarzman has called it “a paradigm shift in global capital flows”, which sums it up nicely: there really is no overstating the significance of this transaction. (Unless, of course, you are the PRC yourself; such are the country's cash reserves that the $3 billion going to Schwarzman and his colleagues is a mere drop in the South China Sea. See p. 38 for details.)
For those active in private equity, the deal confirms once again that their industry has entered the asset management mainstream in a big way. Even if you believe that there are certain things the Blackstone Group actually can't do, there is no denying the fact that private equity is now more global than ever before, and that the institutionalisation of the business is progressing rapidly as well. The widely anticipated wave of private equity firms going public hasn't even hit yet, but most leading groups have now adopted organisational structures that can only be described as “institutional”. Corporate brands have also become more important in the industry.
And yet: given the entrepreneurial nature of the asset class, and despite everything we've said so far, we still feel quite strongly that ultimately it is the vision and drive of individual practitioners that make private equity such a special place in global finance. By this rationale, Steve Schwarzman is just one of the many individuals that give shape and definition to private equity around the world. They will be difficult to replace, and they flourish in an industry that despite all the changes in the past few years still remains what it always has been: primarily a people business.
Which is why we think you will have fun with the cover story of this, the June edition of PEI. “Global movers”, which starts on p. 51, is our very own choice of 50 decision-makers that make all the difference in private equity today. After much deliberation, we selected some big intellects and some even bigger egos. Some of those included are must-have material, others you might find more surprising. But whatever your take on our cast of 50, there is one thing that all of them have in common: a life-defining passion for private equity.
Enjoy the issue,
Philip BorelManaging Editor