Blackstone Pledges $3.6 Mln to Research Triangle, Schwarzman Softens Tax Views

Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, seems to be everywhere today.

On Monday, the Blackstone Group pledged $3.6 million to help mentor dozens of start-up companies in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. The goal of the program, the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, is to identify and help 30 start-ups a year over a five-year period. Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are partnering in the effort.

The effort is expected to create 17,000 jobs in the next decade, attract more than $800 million in investment capital and generate more than $4 billion in revenue.

“The Blackstone Charitable Foundation views support for entrepreneurship as a critically important element in meaningfully building jobs and improving the United States’ growth and competitiveness,” said Schwarzman, who was in Durham to launch the program.

New York-based Blackstone is part of President Obama’s “Startup America” initiative and has pledged $50 million to foster entrepreneurship in places with high unemployment. The announcement comes just days after the New York buyout shop unveiled Q1 earnings that were its strongest since Blackstone went public in 2007.

Schwarzman also showed up today on Bloomberg TV. The executive, known for giving luxurious parties, appears to have softened his hard-line tax views. Last August, Schwarzman compared President Obama’s tax policies to the Nazi advance across Europe at the beginning of the Second World War. Schwarzman was upset about the proposed hike to carried interest. Later, he apologized for the comments. Pete Peterson, Blackstone’s co-founder, then said he believes carried interest should be taxed as regular income.

Schwarzman told Bloomberg that “everyone in this society is going to end up bearing some burden except the very poor, who need to be protected,” he said. “But I think this is a widespread issue where everyone will be giving something up. If you don’t, you’re not going to be able to solve the problems we have. Nine percent of GDP is over $1 trillion per year that is piling up. It is not really as much of an abstract concept. The more we do this, eventually we reach a point where the country has great difficulty preserving the livelihoods for people as they know it. It is really an issue that must be addressed.”

Since the November election, Schwarzman said that there has been “much more positive rhetoric” from all parties in the political system toward the business community. “Without engendering confidence both in the business community on the one hand and consumers on the other, we really can’t push through to have an optimum outcome,” he said.

Schwarzman also addressed closing the budget gap by ending Bush-era tax cuts. The Blackstone CEO said there are “many different ways to narrow that 2% we are missing by historic standards.”

The situation is serious enough, Schwarzman said, that almost everyone, and this includes the very rich, will likely have to give up something.  “It is like medicine in the old days that just tasted really bad,” he said. “If you didn’t take your medicine, you weren’t going to get healthy.”