First Round: Chip off the old Blackstone

One sure-fire path to longevity is to stamp your name on something. Carlyle’s David Rubenstein has his eponymous rare books library at Duke University. KKR’s Henry Kravis is getting a swanky new building at Columbia Business School.

But Blackstone founder Steve Schwarzman has gone one better. He’s ensured generations will be using his name long after they’ve forgotten its owner. He’s created a scholarship programme.

Apparently the one-year Schwarzman Scholars master’s degree programme is modelled after the Rhodes Scholarship, but updated to “meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond”. One major update is headquartering the programme not among Oxford’s dreaming spires, but at Tsinghua University in Beijing with the aim of helping the world’s future leaders across all sectors better understand China and “prepare for constructive engagement”.

Let’s hope Schwarzman’s canny PE-style future-proofing will ensure his name isn’t taken in vain further down the line.

The acceptance rate for Schwarzman Scholars is just 3.7 percent, making the programme harder to get into than Harvard Business School, the London School of Economics, or Annabel’s on a Friday night.

The programme’s advisory board includes a swathe of political heavyweights, among them former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, former British prime minister Tony Blair and, rather delightfully, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

First Round can’t decide whether the whole thing sounds more Model UN or Hunger Games. Will they really all survive? Or will they be forced to sleep with one eye open and defend themselves with shields fashioned from classic PE required reading Barbarians at the Gate and Where are the Customers’ Yachts?

Schwarzman’s funding the master’s degree in the best way he knows how: making a hefty personal commitment ($100 million), and leading a fundraising campaign to pull together an extra $350 million to endow the programme, which will accept 200 scholars a year, in perpetuity.

“It is my intention that the Schwarzman Scholars will return home and provide leadership in a changing, complex and dynamic world,” said the man himself.

Just imagine. A 200-strong army of mini Schwarz-men-and-women marching off campus every year ready to take over the world.