Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire co-founder of Blackstone Group LP, said a former admission dean of Harvard College later told him it was a mistake to have rejected him as an undergraduate applicant.
“He wrote me a few years ago saying, ’I guess we got that one wrong,’” Schwarzman said Tuesday in a Bloomberg Television interview with Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle in which he recounted his application. “My number-one choice was Harvard and I didn’t get in,” Schwarzman said, adding that he called the dean from his high-school pay phone to ask him to change his mind, which was “like dialing God.”
Schwarzman, who instead attended Yale University, graduated from Harvard Business School three years after finishing at New Haven, Connecticut-based Yale. The 68-year-old, who’s worth $13.3 billion, on Monday said he’ll give $150 million to Yale for a student center that will include performance, exhibition, meeting, dining and gathering spaces. The Schwarzman Center is expected to open in 2020.
Schwarzman started New York-based Blackstone in 1985 with Pete Peterson as a leveraged-buyout and merger advisory firm. The company has grown to manage $310 billion across private equity holdings, real estate, credit assets and hedge funds.
Now, getting a job as an analyst at Blackstone is more difficult than getting into Harvard, Yale or Stanford University, Schwarzman said last month. The firm accepted 0.7 percent of applicants for the role, he said on a conference call discussing first-quarter earnings. Harvard’s rate is 5.3 percent, Yale’s is 6.5 percent and Stanford’s is 5 percent for the classes entering this year.
Schwarzman’s other philanthropic efforts include founding the Schwarzman Scholars program, which starting next year will fund a residential advanced-degree program at China’s Tsinghua University, with $100 million of his money. In 2008 he also gave $100 million to the New York Public Library.
“People tend to find me now,” Schwarzman said of colleagues and institutions seeking money for philanthropic causes.