Steve Schwartzman is going full feudal.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was once criticized for hiding under a parasol in the Côte d’Azur during the Great Depression. Blackstone Inc. founder and CEO Steve Schwartzman, facing an economic downturn, has taken shelter in an English manor house – within hours of his firm dumping ESG shares.
Mr. Schwartzman has purchased a country home west of London with around 2500 acres of supple grounds and a fiefdom of cottages fashioned from the remains of an 18th century riding school for GBP 80 million, which at the moment is about $80 million, thanks to the rapid decline of British Sterling. He plans to restore the building to bring it back to its original state, dating from the late 17th century.
Meanwhile, Blackstone this week sold an almost identical amount of shares in Altus Power, Inc., a newly-listed company that installs solar panels on rooftops to generate green energy. The Blackstone block sale triggered a 25% selloff in shares of Altus, which has a profitable business model capturing otherwise lost solar energy from vacant areas.
To be very clear, Mr. Schwartzman is a billionaire and didn’t need the cash. He is a minority shareholder in Blackstone. Neither Blackstone nor Mr. Schwartzman responded to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Blackstone embraces publicly an ESG – environmental, social and governance – mindset. “Our investment model—whereby we are often in control ownership positions and have a long-term perspective—and our expertise can help our portfolio companies advance their ESG journeys,” says Elizabeth Lewis, the deputy head of ESG at Blackstone.
ESG investing has become a meme of our times, with the likes of Larry Fink at BlackRock pushing companies to modernize. GOP hopeful and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has chastised the mantra as “woke” and against the grain of American capitalism.
Mr. Schwartzman is known for his generosity. The New York public library on Fifth Avenue bears his name.