Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman is beefing up his charitable efforts

April 30, 2021, 11:03 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman runs a hundred-billion-dollar business that’s been hitting new market highs recently. In his spare time, he also runs a multi-billion-dollar charity. Schwarzman has signed the “giving pledge,” which requires him to give away half his $27 billion fortune before he dies or in his will. 

That’s not as easy as it sounds. He’s gotten a billion-dollar start by funding the New York Public Library’s flagship Schwarzman Building, a Schwarzman College of Computing at MIT that focuses on Artificial Intelligence, the Schwarzman Center for the Humanities at Oxford that’s looking into the ethics of AI, the Schwarzman Scholars program in China that’s a sort of an Asian Rhodes Scholarship, and the Schwarzman Center for student life and the arts at Yale University. “Each of these projects are like start-ups,” he told me last week. “Each requires a whole new vision of why something should change and how we make things more powerful, more useful, more productive. My objective is not just to be a financier, but to make each project work on a long-term basis.”

This morning, Schwarzman is announcing plans to beef up his charitable efforts. He’s hired former McKinsey partner Bruce Simpson to help run his foundation. While at McKinsey, Simpson partnered with Fortune on an effort to develop a playbook for purpose-driven companies—you can read the report he and I coauthored on that effort here. Simpson says the Schwarzman Foundation will be a bridge between different fields—like A.I. and ethics (MIT and Oxford), or arts and science (Yale), or East and West (Schwarzman scholars.)

“Given the scale of resources I have to deal with, I had to put some organization and structure around it,” Schwarzman told me. “And I needed to be planning for the future. At some point, as much as it distresses me, I won’t be here.” His name, however, will be around for a long time to come.

Speaking of billionaires, Elon Musk’s financial filings have been getting serious attention from Fortune’s financial sleuth, Shawn Tully. You can read his analysis of Tesla’s bitcoin investment here.

And for an even more mind-boggling financial tale, read Erika Fry’s dissection of how GoodRx has taken the insanity of the U.S. pharmaceutical market and turned it into a business that saves people money and makes huge profits.

And since it is Friday, some quick feedback. SM chided me for accepting without question Gensler Co-CEO Andy Cohen’s statement that collaboration declined 40% during the pandemic. So I went back and did my diligence. The statistic is based on a survey Gensler conducted that you can read in detail here.

Other news below.

Alan Murray


Apple charges

The European Commission this morning issued a statement of objections, a.k.a. a charge sheet, in its antitrust case against Apple. It says Apple is using high commission requirements and other means to stymie competing music streamers in the App Store. The move kicks off the phase of the investigation in which Apple gets to look at the evidence and argue its side of the case. The Verge

Menthol ban

The Biden administration will try to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigar products. However, the rulemaking process could take years, and Big Tobacco is very likely to bring legal challenges. Manufacturers such as Marlboro-maker Altria are already arguing that the ban would create an illegal secondary market. Fortune


The German business software giant SAP will pay an $8 million fine in the U.S.—but face no criminal charges—for breaking sanctions with software exports to Iran. SAP gets to avoid the charges because it voluntarily fessed up to its violations. DOJ national security chief John Demers: "This could have been worse for SAP if we had we discovered this on our own." Deutsche Welle

Bad Sputnik

Some worrying news about Russia's Sputnik V COVID vaccine: Brazilian regulators say the doses they checked accidentally contained a virus that could cause a cold, which would be very bad for certain vulnerable people. Slovakian regulators have also criticized the doses they inspected, saying they weren't the same as the Sputnik V samples that were found in a peer-reviewed publication to be 91.6% effective. The Sputnik V team reacted badly then and they're doing the same now, claiming to have launched a defamation suit against the Brazilian watchdog. Fortune

Editor's note: My sincere apologies for daftly referring to Arundhati Roy in the masculine form in yesterday's newsletter, and thanks to the many of you who wrote in to point out the error.


Climate law

Germany's highest court is forcing the government to rewrite a recent climate law that set out emissions-reduction targets through 2030, but no further. Given the goal is carbon neutrality by 2050, the court said, this is insufficient—and because the existing targets would use up most of Germany's carbon budget en route to neutrality, they would unfairly condemn today's young people to "radical abstinence". Fortune

Economic rebound

The U.S. economy grew in the first quarter to a size just slightly smaller than the pre-pandemic economy. In other words, we're probably looking at a fast, consumer-driven recovery. Oxford Economics chief U.S. economist Gregory Daco: "Everything about this crisis has been unique. The speed and the magnitude of the contraction in economic activity was unprecedented. The amount of policy support put in place was extremely rapid." Wall Street Journal

European chips

Europe's chip-starved auto industry is throwing its weight behind the European Commission's efforts to boost local production. Germany's BMW yesterday became the latest car manufacturer to admit it was hit by the global shortage. Fortune

Disaster NFT

Zoë Roth, known to online culture as the girl in the Disaster Girl meme photo, is 21 now and has just cashed in on her fame by creating and selling a trendy nonfungible token (NFT) of the shot. She made around $500,000. New York Times

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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