Book Review: What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence

October 14, 2019 | Alts Education, Insights
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Tim Melvin Review’s Stephen A. Schwarzman’s Memoir

“What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” is a new book by Stephen A. Schwarzman of Blackstone. I read it cover to cover the weekend I got my copy.

Mr. Schwarzman, along with Pete Peterson, built Blackstone into one of the largest alternative investment managers in the world. The book recounts a fascinating journey.

Along the way he has interacted with political leaders, leading figures in the arts and just about every successful business leader in the United States. He discusses all the economic and political developments of the last three decades and how they impacted what they did to at Blackstone to react and profit from them.

The chapters on how he guided Blackstone through the credit crisis are by themselves worth the price of the book. Although they took some epic plunges in real estate late in 2007 with the Hilton and Equity Office purchases, two of the largest real estate transactions ever, Blackstone managed to side-step a great deal of the economic carnage and emerge as one the stronger Private equity firms in the aftermath of the meltdown.

Inside “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” by Stephen A. Schwarzman

He also shares the driving forces behind his massive philanthropic activities which have primarily been in education-related projects and causes. He recognizes that his education was one of the driving forces that lead to his success and he is willing to share the wealth to help others benefit from a high-quality education as well.

However, my only complaint about this book was that Mr. Schwarzman can sometimes come across as a little bit arrogant. But it’s not a dealbreaker. I further suppose if my first job was folding handkerchiefs in my father’s store and I was now a billionaire controlling hundreds of billions of dollars around the world, I might be a bit impressed with myself as well.

“What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” is an enjoyable read. It tracks the life of a fascinating man and one of the titans of the modern business community. Stephen Schwarzman’s story is the story of the modern private equity industry and well worth the time needed to read.

-Tim Melvin

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