Excerpted from The Weekend That Changed Wall Street. Published by Portfolio Penguin. Copyright Maria Bartiromo, 2010.
By Maria Bartiromo December 2006 Steve and Christine Schwarzman's annual holiday party was legendary, and normally I wasn't on the guest list. But this year was different. I ended up being invited not because of my professional relationship with Steve, chairman of the Blackstone Group, but because of my connection to his apartment, 740 Park Avenue. The previous owner, Saul Steinberg, is my father-in-law. Saul had purchased the twenty-thousand-square-foot apartment from the estate of John D. Rockefeller in 1971, for well under $300,000, and it had been his home for thirty years. My husband, Jonathan, spent much of his childhood at the Park Avenue apartment, and we held our engagement party there shortly before the sale to the Schwarzmans.
In 1999 the Steinbergs put the apartment on the market, and the Schwarzmans swept in, paying more than $30 million--the highest price ever for a Manhattan apartment at that time. Steve Schwarzman was arguably one of the most important men on Wall Street. Everyone wanted to be close to him, and in a sense everyone deferred to him because he controlled so much of the business. It was a great time to be alive and in private equity. And it was a great time to be Steve Schwarzman. When we walked into the apartment it was still breathtaking, but different. After the Schwarzmans purchased the Steinberg apartment, Christine had wanted to make it her own. She gutted the place and spent a year on a multimillion-dollar overhaul. I hadn't realized that the Schwarzman holiday parties were always themed. That year's theme was Bond--as in James, not municipal. The host was dressed in a snazzy tux, portraying 007 with Christine shimmering at his side in a silver gown. Scantily clad "Bond girls" roamed the party serving drinks and hors d'oeuvres. There were repeated joking references to "Goldfinger" throughout the evening. The apartment was crowded with well-known Wall Street faces. John Thain, chief executive of the NYSE, was there, having recently purchased an apartment in the building for a reported $27.5 million. I spotted a smattering of "real" celebrities, and smiled when I saw Paris Hilton holding court, surrounded by an admiring group of investment bankers from Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs. At one point in the evening I found myself in a corner chatting with Jimmy Cayne and Dick Fuld. Cayne, the flamboyant chief executive of Bear Stearns, was enjoying himself, as always, despite the buzz of criticism about his extremely large Christmas bonus of nearly $15 million. Fuld, the head of Lehman Brothers, known to be a lone wolf, hugged the corner, having private conversations and at times looking uncomfortable.