Blackstone Hires Ex-Ambassador Burns for Geopolitical Help

Blackstone Group LP, the world’s largest private equity firm, hired William Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, to advise on geopolitical issues.

Burns follows other former government officials into the alternative investment industry. David Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, works for KKR & Co., and Wesley Clark, previously NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, is an adviser to Blackstone. Private equity firms often hire former high-ranking officials for their relationships with companies and governments abroad as well as their expertise.

“Bill has been one of the small group ‘in the room’ dealing with most of the critical international issues of the last 20 years,” Tony James, Blackstone’s president and chief operating officer, said in a company statement on Monday. “His innate understanding of geopolitical risk will serve us well as we seek new investment opportunities and partners globally.”

Blackstone, based in New York, manages $310 billion globally. While the company expanded in Europe and Asia over the last decade, it struggled to gain traction in Russia. It stopped seeking deals in the country after three years of trying, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg last year.

Stephen Schwarzman, the company’s co-founder and chairman, joined the international advisory board of the Kremlin-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, in 2011. He said in December that Russia is too complex at the moment for foreign investors.

“There’s a reason to wait for some normalization between the great powers of the world before one starts investing,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

Burns is the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He previously served as deputy Secretary of State and as ambassador to Jordan, among other posts during his 33-year diplomatic career.

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