Blackstone CEO Schwarzman's Massive Payday Belies Mediocre Stock Return
Stephen Schwarzman.

In the decade since private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP (BX) became a public company, founder and CEO Stephen Schwarzman has raked in about $44 million a year on average in annual compensation -- roughly three times the average for CEOs in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index of large U.S. stocks.

Last year, Schwarzman got $125.5 million in annual compensation, based on an annual report published last week. That's 54 times the New York Lotto's latest jackpot

But in terms of delivering for Blackstone's shareholders, Schwarzman has been mediocre. Slightly worse than mediocre, in fact.

Since Blackstone's IPO in June 2007, the company has produced a total return for shareholders of about 110%, including stock-price gains and dividends, according to the New York-based company's website. That's below the 125% for the S&P 500 over that period; if Blackstone were among the index's 500 members, it would rank 310th.

The returns also pale in comparison with other big financial firms run by longtime CEOs. Action Alerts Plus holding JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) , whose CEO Jamie Dimon made $23 million last year, has produced returns of 202% over the period. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A) has generated 182% annually for shareholders, even though CEO Warren Buffett -- a multibillionaire thanks to blockbuster growth in the value of his stock -- takes home less than $500,000 a year.

And BlackRock Inc. (BLK) , the money-management firm that got startup funding from Blackstone in the late 1980s, has returned about 345%, more than quadrupling shareholders' money over the period. CEO Larry Fink made $25.5 million last year.

The analysis shows that Schwarzman, considered a titan of finance and a leader in the private-equity business of using borrowed money to buy companies in hopes of selling them later at a profit, is a failure when it comes to producing market-beating returns for his company's shareholders.

Based on Blackstone's relative performance, Schwarzman's pay is "slightly on the egregious side," said Hank Higdon, vice chairman at recruiting firm RSR Partners in New York.

A Blackstone spokesman declined to comment.

The irony is that Schwarzman himself is Blackstone's biggest shareholder, with a 47% stake as of Feb. 22.

Due to his substantial stake in the company, he shares in dividend payouts along with other shareholders. Last year, the amount totaled about $660 million, based on his ownership of 232 million Blackstone partnership units -- similar to a common share -- and a dividend payout of $2.85 per unit. But that's income, not compensation.

Because most of his annual pay package comes from incentive fees linked to the performance of Blackstone's private funds, he gets paid - a lot - even if the company turns in an anemic stock performance.

Schwarzman is frequently interviewed as an expert on finance and economics on channels like CNBC and honored on panels at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. He briefly led President Donald Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, a group of business leaders including Dimon, Fink and the CEOs of General Motors Co. (GM) , Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and IBM Corp. (IBM) , until the panel dissolved last year amid public outcry over the president's response to a fatal attack by an alleged white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Blackstone has been remarkably successful at raising private funds to buy companies and make investments in real estate, power plants and infrastructure. Last year, the company had $108 billion of capital inflows, more than rival private-equity firms Apollo Global Management (APO) , KKR & Co. (KKR) and Carlyle Group (CG) combined.

Unlike most publicly-traded companies, Blackstone has no independent compensation committee of board members who aren't also executives, according to the company's annual report. Instead, compensation is determined by Schwarzman, with input from Hamilton "Tony" James, who until recently served as president and second-in-command, according to the report.

Schwarzman's pay package last year consisted of a $350,000 salary and $125.5 million of "other compensation," including "carried interest" and incentive fees linked to Blackstone's private funds.

Blackstone posted a pre-tax profit of $4.11 billion last year. Had Schwarzman's share of the fees gone to the company instead, the pre-tax profit would have ostensibly been 3% higher. 

Schwarzman has complained to investors as recently as December that Blackstone's stock price isn't valued as highly as it should be. The share price trades at 11 times estimated earnings per share over the coming year, compared with 19% for the S&P 500. Even Janus Henderson Group (JHG) , a big money manager that recorded net capital outflows last year of $3 billion, has a higher stock multiple of 12.

Yet Schwarzman's complaining hasn't helped much.

Blackstone shares climbed 18% last year, trailing the 19% gain in the S&P 500.

Below average, again.

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