A Public Outcry Against a Wall Street Titan’s Name on a High School

Stunned by the public outcry, which included an online petition that has now garnered nearly 1,500 signatures, the district amended its decision to rename the school the Abington Schwarzman High School. Instead, Mr. Schwarzman’s name would merely grace the new science and technology center.

The school board president, Raymond McGarry, accepted responsibility. “I was so focused on the positive aspects of this that, frankly, I was blinded,” he said.

Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Schwarzman’s private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, who attended the meeting, insisted that Mr. Schwarzman was all right with his name not being on the school. “The naming was inconsequential,” she said.

Under the amended agreement, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Center for Science and Technology will feature plaques or photos of him. It is unclear if his portrait also will hang in the building.

A decade has passed since the global financial crisis. The economy is growing; unemployment is low. But emotions are still running hot about the role that big banks and other Wall Street firms — and their millionaire and billionaire leaders — play in America. Yawning inequality has cemented the feeling that just about everything is available for purchase by the very, very rich.


Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of the private equity firm Blackstone Group, attended Abington Senior High School in the 1960s, which he credited with kick-starting his future.

Jason Lee/Reuters

Mr. Schwarzman, with an estimated $12 billion fortune, is the embodiment of that caste. He has become a public supporter of President Trump. That helped him land a major international investment last year, but it also made him a polarizing figure in Abington, which voted more than 2-to-1 for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Naming-rights deals are common, but they increasingly risk provoking fierce reactions — sometimes leading to embarrassing retreats by the wealthy patrons and the recipients of their largess.

In 2015, former Citigroup chief executive Sanford I. Weill and his wife, Joan Weill, abandoned a $20 million donation to a small college in Paul Smiths, N.Y., after alumni fought their demand that the school modify its name to include Mrs. Weill’s. That same year, on a far smaller financial scale, a quarrel erupted in Beverly Hills, Calif., over an elementary school courtyard that was named after a local real estate agent who had donated tens of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Schwarzman has used his wealth to get his name attached to stuff near and far.

In 2007, he gave $100 million to the New York Public Library, which renamed its grand Fifth Avenue flagship the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The Schwarzman Scholars, a $550 million international scholarship program in Beijing, was launched in 2013. And in New Haven, Conn., a $150 million gift established the Schwarzman Center at Yale University, a futuristic student building to feature new dining halls, meeting rooms, and performance space.


The Rose Main Reading Room in the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in Manhattan.

Willie Davis for The New York Times

Mr. Schwarzman’s cash-for-naming-rights frenzy was underway as early as 2004, right here in Abington, when he donated $400,000 to the high school to build a new football stadium. It was named in his honor.

During his youth, his family moved to Abington from downtown Philadelphia. Abington was known for its good schools, and his mother wanted a better education for her children.

At Abington, Mr. Schwarzman ran track and cross-country, once logging a record time despite breaking his wrist partway through a race, and was elected student body president. After graduating in 1965, he attended Yale and then Harvard Business School. In 1985, he helped start Blackstone, which became the world’s largest private equity firm. He has credited Abington Senior High School with kick-starting his future.

By this decade, the high school needed an upgrade. Its main building dated back to the 1950s. It lacked anything resembling cutting-edge computer or science facilities.

Amy Sichel, the longtime Abington School Superintendent, started searching for a benefactor to help bankroll a renovation project that the school board estimated would cost roughly $100 million. Mr. Schwarzman, one of the school’s most famous alumni, was an obvious target.

Dr. Sichel approached him about a new contribution in January 2017. Two months later, the Abington school board incorporated the Foundation for Abington School District, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that could manage the potential gift, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

During the ensuing months, Dr. Sichel, a former school psychologist who is one of the highest-paid superintendents in Pennsylvania, discussed her high school’s needs with Mr. Schwarzman and his philanthropic team. He was especially interested in having the school embrace technology.

Talks were so cordial that Dr. Sichel was invited to Mr. Schwarzman’s 70th birthday celebration last February. The party, in Palm Beach, Fla., featured camels and a performance by the rock star Gwen Stefani.

By the following January, Mr. Schwarzman had committed $25 million to the renovation, which would feature improved science labs, a new laptop for each student and coding classes available to all.


Mr. Schwarzman donated $400,000 to the high school in 2004 to build a new football stadium. It was named in his honor.

Mark Makela for The New York Times

Mr. Schwarzman announced his donation at a gathering of 3,000 school superintendents in Nashville on Feb. 14. There was no mention that Mr. Schwarzman’s name would be plastered all over the school.

That was because that detail was still being discussed, said Dr. Sichel. So were other requirements contained in the original agreement, which was finalized on March 22 but never signed. The deal also stipulated that the renovated building should feature a portrait of Mr. Schwarzman that he commissioned and that his twin brothers, Mark and Warren Schwarzman, should have spaces named for them.

In a phone interview on Friday, Dr. Sichel said that given the size of the gift, she and the board “were sure that it would come with some kind of naming opportunity.”

She said she was shocked by the visceral objections the name change inspired.

The outcry, raised by the school board’s ratification of the deal on March 27, started with social media posts. It culminated in angry emails to school officials and a petition to oppose the renaming.

School board meetings in Abington are normally dull affairs that sometimes last less than 15 minutes. But the gathering on Tuesday immediately took on a circuslike atmosphere.

Officials first gave an exhaustive presentation about the planned renovations. “This is a punishment!” shouted a woman in the audience, filled with locals in pressed khakis or Eagles jerseys. One woman clicked away on knitting needles.

When the floor was finally opened to the audience, it was nearly 9 p.m. Dozens of people queued for their three minutes at the microphone. Some read from prepared notes. Others cross-examined Dr. Sichel and the school board’s nine members.

The anger was not just about the school being renamed for Mr. Schwarzman. It was that the school board forged the deal in secret.

David Brooks, who graduated from the high school in 2000, said the board was one of three things: “brazen,” “sneaky” or “stupid.” If the school’s name could be auctioned for $25 million, he added, “what else is for sale?”

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Massive United States-Saudi Infrastructure Fund Struggles to Get Going

Among the factors that have complicated the fund’s launch: Saudi officials told Blackstone last year that they wanted to create an investment committee — including one or more Saudi representatives — that would oversee the fund, according to four people briefed on the talks who weren’t authorized to discuss them publicly.

The idea was a non-starter for Blackstone officials, who have consistently avoided outside influence over their investment decisions, said three of the people briefed on the talks.


Stephen A. Schwarzman, the co-founder and chief executive of Blackstone. Mr. Schwarzman, a prominent supporter of President Trump, announced the creation of the infrastructure fund during a presidential visit to Saudi Arabia last May.

Jason Alden/Bloomberg

“We’ve had a long and broad-based relationship with the Kingdom that’s, frankly, never been stronger,” said Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for Blackstone. “They’ve been exceptional partners.” She declined to discuss the details of the firm’s fund-raising efforts, citing legal restrictions that apply during marketing periods.

A spokesman for the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund declined to comment.

Blackstone — whose co-founder and chief executive, Stephen A. Schwarzman, is a prominent supporter of President Trump — rushed to unveil the infrastructure fund during the pomp-filled presidential visit to Saudi Arabia last May. Wall Street titans including Mr. Schwarzman attended opulent ceremonies to celebrate the two countries’ financial and political ties.

The deal fit neatly into the White House’s efforts to coax foreign countries to invest in the United States. Blackstone’s president at the time, Hamilton E. James, predicted that the fund would spur infrastructure projects that would “create well-paying American jobs and will lay the foundation for stronger long-term economic growth.”

In the joint Blackstone-Saudi news release, H.E. Yasir Al Rumayyan, the head of the Public Investment Fund, said that the $20 billion Saudi pledge “reflects our positive views around the ambitious infrastructure initiatives being undertaken in the United States as announced by President Trump.”

The venture’s $40 billion target drew skepticism from Blackstone’s rival firms. But the company said it could pull it off. “Blackstone has the talent, scale and experience to be an effective private sector partner in filling the massive infrastructure funding gap,” Mr. James, now executive vice chairman of the company, said in the announcement.

In public, Blackstone is sticking with its goals of creating an immense fund and deepening its relationship with the Saudi regime, which has drawn criticism for its human rights record.

“We’re very confident in the long term we’ll reach the $40 billion capacity,” Mr. James told a group of reporters in February. He added that Blackstone hoped to hit that target “over the next decade or so.”


Hamilton James, Blackstone’s executive vice chairman. In February, Mr. James said he was “very confident” Blackstone would hit its $40 billion target for the fund.

Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg

A week earlier, Mr. Schwarzman had heaped praise on Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who chairs the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund. When Prince Mohammed was in New York last week, Mr. Schwarzman hosted a lunch for the prince at his New York home.

Blackstone began contacting big institutional investors such as pension funds last spring as it sought contributions to the fund. But some balked at putting money in until Blackstone had a team in place to run the infrastructure fund, according to a person briefed on the process. Blackstone had promoted Sean Klimczak, a partner who had brokered previous infrastructure investments, to run the infrastructure group around the time of the fund’s unveiling. Other hires took longer.

By February, the news release announcing the $40 billion fund had disappeared from Blackstone’s website, although a version remained on the Public Investment Fund’s site. (The release reappeared on Blackstone’s site on Wednesday after The Times asked about it.)

“They announced it with such fanfare and certainty, and clearly things were dragging,” said Colin C. Blaydon, director of the Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. “I wondered what on earth was going on. If anybody ought to be able to pull something like this off, you’d think Blackstone would be the one to do it.”

The only two investors to firmly commit to the infrastructure fund, according to Preqin, are the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System, which committed up to $500 million in January, and the Parochial Employees’ Retirement System of Louisiana, which committed $75 million but was still finalizing the details.

“For us, I think it was a good fit,” said Troy Searles, chief investment officer of the Louisiana fund. He said he liked the idea of focusing on North American infrastructure and thought Blackstone would succeed.

Last month, Mr. Schwarzman mentioned the fund-raising efforts at a New York investment conference with about 200 people in the room.

“We’re raising other money,” he said, according to a transcript of the event. He invited anyone in the audience who was interested to come forward after his speech. “Don’t be hesitant. Don’t be embarrassed.”

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Grocery Wars Turn Small Chains Into Battlefield Casualties

Amazon’s $13 billion purchase of Whole Foods in June added a sense of urgency, raising the prospect that the e-commerce giant would find a way to upend groceries just as it has every other aspect of retail. This month, Walmart responded with its own plan to start offering an online grocery delivery service in 100 cities.


Abel Porter, the chief executive of Fairway, addressing employees this month in New York. “It’s not a level playing field,” he said in an interview. “Competing against Amazon is like competing against the government or a military commissary.”

Andrew Seng for The New York Times

These digital initiatives — and aggressive price cuts and expansion by other deep-pocketed retailers like the German entry Lidl — are weeding out the weakest links.

“There is a tremendous shakeout in food retail right now,” said Burt P. Flickinger III, a managing director of the retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, whose family founded a grocery business more than a century ago.

At stake is not only the price of toothpaste and bananas, but the fate of thousands of cashiers, cake decorators and meat cutters, many of whom belong to labor unions and are owed pensions when they retire. Tops employs more than 12,000 unionized employees at about 160 stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Maribeth Druse made a lifelong career in groceries, but given the industry’s struggles, her experience will increasingly be harder to replicate.

Ms. Druse, 61, was still in high school when she started working in the meat department of a grocery chain that Tops eventually acquired. She now collects a $20,000-a year-pension and is still able to work part time at the Tops in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“Who works in the same job for 44 years and gets a pension anymore?” Ms. Druse asked. “Nobody.”


Employees of Fairway, which went bankrupt in 2016, heard Mr. Porter tell them, “I am here to announce that Fairway has bounced back.”

Andrew Seng for The New York Times

Like businesses in other industries — including Toys “R” Us, which announced liquidation plans this month — many failing supermarkets are owned by private equity firms that have loaded the companies up with debt. That hampers their ability to compete in an environment where prices in some markets have dropped by as much as 25 percent, Mr. Flickinger said.

Tops was long challenged by the debt its former private equity backer, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, heaped on it.

The private equity firm Lone Star has cashed out $980 million in dividends from Winn-Dixie’s parent company since 2011, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Most of the payments were made by taking out debt on the chain, leaving less money to invest in stores.

Marsh Supermarkets, an Indianapolis regional grocer that had been backed by private equity, laid off more than 1,500 workers and required a federal takeover of its pension plan last year.

And Fairway, the iconic New York grocer that Blackstone took ownership of after it went bankrupt in 2016, is still trying to distinguish itself in a crowded field, but reports making some progress on its turnaround.

This month, Fairway executives met with the company’s roughly 3,500 workers, most of whom are unionized, to unveil a set of new initiatives — like investments in a new marketing campaign. It plans to emphasize the company’s role in bringing new foods to market, as it did with Chobani yogurt and Cape Cod potato chips.

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Remembering Pete Peterson and His Long and Winding Career: DealBook Briefing

Mark Zuckerberg, silent so far, is expected to speak about Facebook’s latest scandal within the next 24 hours, according to Axios.

Critics’ corner

• Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook employee involved in its apps platform, writes: “Facebook has systematically failed to enforce its own policies. The only solution is external oversight.” (WaPo)

• Shira Ovide says the damage may be permanent. (Gadfly)

• Nick Thompson and Fred Vogelstein say Facebook may have taken the wrong lesson from past scandals: “All of those crises have passed with limited damage. And perhaps that’s why the company appears to have underestimated the power of the storm clouds moving in.” (Wired)

• John Gapper writes, “Facebook has never implemented safeguards that match the power of the data machine it created.” (FT)

Elsewhere in big tech: Go inside “Zucktown,” the neighborhood Facebook is developing in Menlo Park, Calif. Google is investing $300 million to support journalism, even though it and Facebook inevitably hurt publishers to some degree. And Canada, South Korea and Australia are becoming worried about Huawei.


Juan Mabromata/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The race to avoid U.S. tariffs

At the Group of 20’s meeting in Buenos Aires, finance ministers from France, Argentina, South Korea and elsewhere peppered Steven Mnuchin with requests for exemptions from President Trump’s forthcoming tariffs on imported metal. The U.S. Treasury secretary said, “This is all about free and fair and reciprocal trade.”

The problem: The White House hasn’t said exactly what would qualify a country for an exemption (it has made vague references to protecting national security and reducing bilateral trade deficits).

Meanwhile, the White House is ready to announce more tariffs and limits on Chinese investments as soon as tomorrow — risking a trade war that it can’t win on its own, Michael Schuman argues on Bloomberg View.

Elsewhere in trade: The White House’s efforts to renegotiate Nafta now include a bid to limit warning labels on junk food, according to the NYT.

The political flyaround

• Congress continues to discuss its $1.3 trillion spending bill. The deadline is Friday. (Bloomberg)

• President Trump welcomed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the White House, reaffirming his support of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler. (NYT)

• Citigroup’s C.E.O. Michael Corbat said he was unaware of a pending loan to Kushner Companies when he met with Jared Kushner. (Bloomberg)

• Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims to have had an affair with Mr. Trump, sued to be released from a legal agreement restricting her ability to speak. (NYT)

• Mr. Trump defeated a watchdog group’s lawsuit that challenged his administration’s use of self-destructing message apps like Confide and Signal. (Bloomberg)


Saumya Khandelwal/Reuters

Calculating the fallout from the Uber self-driving car death

The pedestrian fatality in Arizona is perhaps Dara Khosrowshahi’s first major test as Uber’s C.E.O., leaving him with a difficult choice: keep spending on a technology that Uber considers essential to its future, or dial back to reduce risks ahead of an I.P.O.?

Investigators are also looking into whether the victim’s actions — suddenly stepping onto a darkened street — could limit Uber’s liability.

Toyota has paused its self-driving tests; Ford and G.M. have yet to do so. Separately, Uber has hired Tammy Albarran from Covington and Burling as its deputy general counsel, replacing Angela Padilla.

Elsewhere in tech: The Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs has reportedly exposed a U.S. cyberespionage operation focused on ISIS. Expect a merger frenzy in lithium. Expedia’s Orbitz disclosed a breach that affects about 880,000 payment cards. And Amazon has surpassed Alphabet as the second-biggest publicly traded company by market value.


Randall Stephenson of AT&T and Jeffrey Bewkes of Time Warner before Congress in 2016.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Waiting an extra day for the AT&T fireworks

The latest (ugh, seriously) snowstorm barreling toward the Northeast has postponed the first day of oral arguments in the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner.

When the trial picks up again tomorrow, here’s what to expect, courtesy of Cecilia Kang of the NYT: roughly 60 witnesses, 519 exhibits from the Justice Department alone and at least six weeks of testimony. Key witnesses will include Randall Stephenson of AT&T and Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner.

Elsewhere in media: A Fox News analyst resigned from the network, calling it Trump propaganda. Bill O’Reilly is seeking dismissal of the defamation suit. And two books about Mike Pence’s pet bunny are duking it out on Amazon.


Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Travis Kalanick’s next act

He’s buying control of a distressed real-estate concern named Cloud Storage Systems for $150 million, and installing himself as C.E.O. In a statement, Mr. Kalanick said that part of the goal is to expand C.S.S.’s expansion into kitchens and retail space for on-demand services. (The deal took about a tenth of his liquid net worth, Bloomberg notes.)

Mr. Kalanick’s successor at Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, congratulated him on Twitter — and suggested the two companies might work together.

Elsewhere in tech deals

• Salesforce agreed to buy Mulesoft, whose software helps connect platforms and which went public only last year, for $6.5 billion in its biggest-ever acquisition. (Bloomberg)

• Google has reportedly acquired the imaging start-up Lytro for about $40 million. (TechCrunch)

• DJI, the Chinese drone giant, is reportedly in talks to raise money at a $15 billion valuation. (The Information)

• CryptoKitties still exists, and has raised $12 million. (Bloomberg)


Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The deals flyaround

• Nordstrom ended talks to sell itself to its founding family; the stumbling block was price. (Bloomberg)

• Warren Buffett’s only major acquisition last year: 38 percent of the owner of Pilot Flying J truck stops, for $2.76 billion. (Bloomberg)

• Starboard Value’s nominees for the board of the consumer products group Newell withdrew after it settled with Carl Icahn. (WSJ)

• China’s Citic is reportedly in talks to invest in the embattled energy conglomerate CEFC. (FT)

• General Dynamics has raised its takeover bid for CSRA to $41.25 a share in cash, to stave off a rival offer from CACI. (Reuters)

• Vivendi has sold its 27 percent stake in the video game maker Ubisoft for €2 billion. (FT)

• A coffee-shop meeting gone wrong reportedly led to Voce Capital Management’s proxy battle against the infant medical company Natus Medical. (WSJ)


Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The legal flyaround

• Jordan Thomas left the S.E.C. not to join a big law firm, but to represent corporate whistle-blowers. That bet is paying off. (NYT)

• Saying “sorry” is no longer enough to earn a lesser sentence, as Martin Shkreli learned, according to White Collar Watch. (NYT)

• The Supreme Court ruled that I.P.O. class-action lawsuits can now be brought in state courts, in a blow to companies. (WSJ)


Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Revolving door

Gary Barber stepped down unexpectedly as C.E.O. of M.G.M. He recently renewed his contract there through 2022. (Hollywood Reporter)

William Voge stepped down as chairman of Latham & Watkins after disclosing sexual communications with a woman unaffiliated with the law firm. (WSJ)

• Lyft has hired Nilka Thomas from Google as its vice president of talent and inclusion. (TechCrunch)

The speed read

• Michigan State University’s endowment is trying to get ahead of divestment campaigns with four tests for whether to drop an investment. (Bloomberg)

• The National Institutes of Health plans a genome-sequencing and health-tracking project involving a million people; some critics say it’s too big. The N.I.H. will also examine whether health officials violated federal policy when they met with alcohol companies to discuss funding a study on the benefits of moderate drinking.

• James Packer, the Australian billionaire embroiled in a corruption scandal involving Israel’s prime minister, has resigned as director of Crown Resorts. (NYT)

• The Equitable Building is getting a $50 million face-lift. (NYT)

• United, which has had high-profile dog troubles, suspended its animal transport program. (NYT)

• Top financial supervisors for the eurozone have told banks to keep planning for a Brexit without transition arrangements. (FT)

• Munich prosecutors investigating the emissions-cheating scandal searched BMW’s headquarters. (NYT)

• Venture capital funds are returning less to investors when they sell companies than private equity funds do, as a share of money raised. (WSJ)

We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to bizday@nytimes.com.

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Peter G. Peterson, a Power From Wall St. to Washington, Dies at 91

His career in business and finance gave weight to his voice in the national discourse. Starting out as a whiz kid in the advertising industry, Mr. Peterson, while still in his 30s, went on to head the Bell & Howell Corporation, a Chicago maker of cameras and audiovisual equipment.

He made his biggest mark as the rescuer of the giant investment firm Lehman Brothers, long before it went under in 2008 as the global financial crisis spread.

Then, in his late 50s, he launched a new career as a founder, with Stephen A. Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group, which pioneered a new breed of financial engineer. Blackstone would become a major player on Wall Street and provide the means for Mr. Peterson, the son of a once-penniless immigrant, to earn a fortune. Forbes put his net worth this year at $2 billion.


Mr. Peterson, moments after he had been sworn in as commerce secretary, with President Richard M. Nixon and Mr. Peterson’s wife at the time, the former Sally Hornbogen, in the Oval Office in February 1972.

United Press International

Peter George Peterson — Pete to almost everyone who knew him — was born on June 5, 1926, in Kearney, Neb., one of three children of George and Venetia Peterson, who had come from southern Greece. (An uncle had changed the family name from Petropoulos.) Peter’s younger sister, Elaine, was only a year old when she died of croup.

His father had arrived in the United States at 17, speaking no English and without any money. He took a job as a dishwasher for the Union Pacific Railroad, working, eating and sleeping in the caboose.

In 1923 the elder Mr. Peterson opened a Greek diner named the Central Café in Kearney, a small city in south-central Nebraska, and operated it for 25 years. Young Peter began working the cash register at age 8. He grew up in Kearney, nearsighted and colorblind. He graduated from Longfellow High School at the top of his class and won admission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At M.I.T. he found he had no aptitude for engineering and shortly transferred to Northwestern University, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1947.

Mr. Peterson began his business career at Market Facts, a Chicago research company. In 1951, he received an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business before returning to Market Facts as an executive vice president.

For a while, Mr. Peterson was a lecturer at the University of Chicago, where he encountered the economists Milton Friedman and George J. Stigler, both of whom would win Nobel Prizes, as well as George P. Shultz, who was dean at the time. Mr. Shultz later held three cabinet posts under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan and was instrumental in bringing Mr. Peterson to Washington.

McCann-Erickson, the large advertising agency, hired Mr. Peterson in 1953 as director of marketing services; a year later, at 27, he became a vice president. He eventually turned down the McCann-Erickson presidency to become executive vice president at Bell & Howell. There, under Charles H. Percy, later a senator from Illinois, he helped the company regain ground from its arch-competitor, Eastman Kodak.

At 34, Mr. Peterson was named president of Bell & Howell. (He recalled that when his mother witnessed the crush of photographers around him after he was named president, she asked him — calling him “Petey” — “Why put up with this craziness when you could go back to Kearney and own your own business?” She was referring to the family diner.)

Inexperienced in manufacturing, Mr. Peterson used neighbors and himself as guinea pigs for company products, helping to develop the zoom lens in the Bell & Howell camera that Abraham Zapruder used to film the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.


Mr. Peterson, at right, in 1987, when he was chairman of Blackstone Group, with Roger C. Altman, a close associate who went on to become a Treasury official in the Carter and Clinton administrations.

Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

At 36 he was named chairman and chief executive, succeeding Mr. Percy. He held both positions until 1971.

Before then, in 1969, he had been recruited to be chairman of the Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy, a private body that was organized in response to populist attacks on philanthropies as parsimonious institutions that are mainly interested in self-perpetuation while enjoying favored tax status.

Years of marketing coups at Bell & Howell, including sponsorship of “CBS Reports” and other public-service television programming, brought Mr. Peterson to the attention of President Richard M. Nixon, who invited him to Washington. There he served as a presidential assistant on international economic affairs before becoming commerce secretary in 1972.

That job lasted only a year. Mr. Peterson was an outspoken liberal Republican who enjoyed socializing with journalists and Democrats, and when the Nixon White House began suspecting his loyalties he left town, concluding, he said, that he had not passed a White House loyalty test.

“My calves were so fat, I couldn’t click my heels,” he was quoted as telling friends. He later said he had been fired.

Mr. Peterson was soon peppered with two dozen job offers. He chose the chairmanship of Lehman Brothers, seizing a long-deferred chance to work in finance.

“I always wanted to get into Wall Street and do what I am doing now — invest,” he said in an interview for this obituary in 2007. “I was experienced enough to realize that the real money was made on investments rather than in selling your body by the hour.”

Lehman was flirting with bankruptcy, however, and Mr. Peterson encountered hard times as he set about restructuring the firm and drawing on his corporate contacts to win new business.

His turnaround efforts resulted in five straight years of record profits and a merger with Kuhn, Loeb.


Mr. Peterson in 1983, when he was chairman and chief executive of Lehman Brothers.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

After 11 years, however, a senior rival, Lewis L. Glucksman, with whom he had had a fruitful relationship as co-chairman, suddenly insisted on becoming the sole No. 1. Mr. Peterson decided to leave rather than fight a battle for control that he said he was told he could have won, but at a high cost to the firm.

The episode was the subject of a 1986 book, “Greed and Glory on Wall Street,” by Ken Auletta.

In 1980, Mr. Peterson married Joan Ganz Cooney, the founder of the Children’s Television Workshop, producers of “Sesame Street.” She was his third wife and survives him. His first two marriages — to Dorothy Krengel (known as Kris) and Sally Hornbogen — ended in divorce.

Besides Ms. Cooney, Mr. Peterson is survived by five children from his second marriage, John, Jim, David, Holly and Michael Peterson; a brother, John; and nine grandchildren.

Mr. Peterson and Mr. Schwarzman, a Lehman managing director working on mergers and acquisitions, teamed up to create Blackstone in 1985, starting with nothing more than two assistants, $400,000 of their own capital and two Rolodexes.

Blackstone — the name was created by translating the first part of Mr. Schwarzman’s name from the German and Mr. Peterson’s name from the Greek — grew rapidly from a modest boutique to a world-class manager of more than $88 billion by the time it went public in 2007.

That offering was notable not just for its size — more than $4 billion — but also because it seemed at odds with the firm’s so-called private equity business of buying up companies and reselling them. Blackstone had contended that targets would benefit from the absence of shareholder scrutiny.

The prospectus for the sale disclosed that Mr. Peterson had been paid $212.9 million in 2006.

The deal also helped inspire an unsuccessful move in Congress to increase taxes on the profits from private equity investments. Mr. Peterson retired from Blackstone in 2008.

Although Mr. Peterson’s business career, particularly on Wall Street, often overshadowed his intense focus on public policy, he campaigned for decades to restore what he regarded as America’s lost fiscal integrity.

He was the founding president of the Concord Coalition and in 1994 was appointed by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform.


Mr. Peterson speaking at a conference in Washington in 2012 organized by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

In evident frustration with a lack of progress on these fronts, Mr. Peterson again tackled tax reform and government entitlements in 2004 by writing “Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It,” a best-selling, politically evenhanded indictment of Democrats for overspending and Republicans for excessive tax-cutting.

“I remain a Republican,” he told Businessweek that year, “but the Republicans have become a far more theological, faith-directed party, not troubling with evidence.”

He contended that the decision to index Social Security benefits for inflation and to increase those benefits substantially would come to be regarded as one of Washington’s biggest fiscal mistakes.

Mr. Peterson also wrote “Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old: How the Coming Social Security Crisis Threatens You, Your Family and Your Country” (1996) and “Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America — and the World” (1999), both dealing with the fiscal implications of aging societies.

He also wrote a memoir, “The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way From a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street and Beyond” (2009).

“I’ve always been involved with causes of various kinds,” Mr. Peterson said in the 2007 Times interview, “kind of a closet, second-rate intellectual, I guess you’d say — very analytical.”

He was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2000 to 2004 and chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1985 to 2007.

“It may well be that Pete’s most important contributions will not be in foreign policy but in his urging of sound fiscal policies,’’ said Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve, as Mr. Peterson stepped down from the New York chairmanship.

Mr. Peterson increasingly turned to philanthropy and fiscal advocacy in later years.

In 2006, his financial support transformed the Institute for International Economics into the Peterson Institute for International Economics. And after Blackstone went public in 2007, he created the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to raise public consciousness about long-term “politically untouchable” national challenges involving entitlements, foreign borrowing, health care costs, national savings, education, energy and nuclear proliferation.

One emphasis of the foundation has been to reach young people through the internet and social media. It also holds conferences that draw America’s top financial and political leaders.

In starting it, Mr. Peterson committed $1 billion and bequeathed much of his remaining estate to it.

“I’m in a business where you wonder how much enough is,” he said of his charitable motivation. “I know the meaning of enough.”

Correction: March 20, 2018

An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to George P. Shultz’s service as a cabinet official. He held his three cabinet posts under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan, not just Reagan.

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