Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The $7 Billion Mouse ... er ... Man

I am sure by now that most of you have read The Wall Street Journal's puff piece on Steve Schwarzman this morning. I wonder if you, like me, were struck by the rather pervasive attention writers Henny Sender and Monica Langley paid throughout the article to the subject's—how shall I put this delicately—untallness. There it is, staring at you, right from the first sentence:
Stephen Schwarzman, who stands 5-foot-6, describes himself as a scrappy "little man" who finds ways to win.

It reminds me of the classic epithet formulated by the late, lamented 1990s society rag Spy magazine to describe Mr. Schwarzman's peer and apparent nemesis in private equity, Henry Kravis: "tiny 80s relic."

Mr. Kravis is somewhat optimistically described in a few places on the internet as 5-foot-7, which would give him primacy over the Blackstone poobah, if true. Having met the man in person some years ago, however, your Dutiful Correspondent must reluctantly disagree and suggest that Mr. Kravis only cracks 5-foot-4 on those rare days when he wears paratrooper boots with lifts in them. For those of you who doubt me—and Mr. Kravis's publicists—I would point you to the following undoctored photograph on a website profiling some of Mr. Kravis's achievements. (As a point of reference, Kareem Abdul Jabbar's height is well documented at 7-foot-2.)

In any event, Mr. Schwarzman seems quite proud of his many achievements as an altitudinally-challenged go-getter:

Mr. Schwarzman says he was president of his junior-high and high-school classes; that he was on the podium on Class Day at Yale [as an aside, what the hell does that mean?]; and that he was president of the prestigious Century Club at Harvard Business School. "I'm a consistent little person," he says of his leadership abilities.

Consistent, and aggressive, too:

"I didn't get to be successful by letting people hurt Blackstone or me," he said. "I have no first-strike capability. I never choose to go into battle first. But I won't back down."

He certainly seems to be using this profile to take a few potshots at a rival or rivals unnamed.

Mr. Schwarzman says he would never go after a company just to thwart a rival firm, and that he isn't a "marauding, low-class, low-brow inflictor of random damage."

Ouch, babe. Where was that missile aimed, 9 West 57th Street? Perhaps Mr. Schwarzman was so willing to let the WSJ emphasize his lack of physical stature because he knew it would get under the skin of his rival New York Society Grandee and tycoon, Mr. Kravis, who apparently suffers in comparison.

You 6-footers reading this should not smirk, however (unless you, too, are billionaires). There is a long history of short, aggressive men cleaning the floor with their taller peers, once they graduate from high school and gain legal protection from assault and battery. Women learn this too as part of their post-high school education in life, and take it to heart. As Mrs. Dealmaker has often said, "Short men just work harder." (And she wasn't talking about yardwork, either.) That, plus the widespread tendency of short men to turn their energy and aggression to accumulating lots of money—and the attendant juicy blondes—leads me to believe that being short may be a selective adaptation in our post-Darwinian world. It could explain current statistics which show that average height in the US is shrinking, as filthy rich shrimpos procreate relentlessly with the hot babes who marry them for their money.

Don't get in their way, either. History is littered with the pathetic, taller victims of aggressive short males. In fact, this may be a cross-species phenomenon, as well, as the following profile of the famed Mighty Mouse can attest. Some of it reads just like the back story that the WSJ editors chose to omit from the article on Mr. Schwarzman.

The early, operatic Mighty Mouse cartoons often portrayed Mighty Mouse as a ruthless fighter. He would dole out a considerable amount of punishment, subduing the cats to the point of giving up their evil plan and running away. Mighty Mouse would then chase down the escaping cats, and continue beating them mercilessly, usually hurling or punching them miles away to finish the fight. A favorite move [was] to sudden[ly] fly up to just under a much larger opponent's chin and [throw] a blinding flurry of punches that [left] the enemy reeling.

... [Mighty Mouse's] arch-enemy [was] an evil villain cat named Oil Can Harry ...

Hmmm. "Oil Can Harry" sounds suspiciously like Henry Kravis to me.

But despair not, Dear Readers, if you are among the pitifully unshort: you can take comfort that Mr. Schwarzman puts his pants on one leg at a time. (At least, I think he does. You never know with these diminutive squillionaires. He may have purchased a special device which enables his pants valet to put them on both legs at once. I bet Henry Kravis doesn't have one of those.)

Short or not, billionaire or not, one-pant-leg-at-a-time or not, Mr. Schwarzman is still subject to most of the same economic and physical laws as the rest of us. And he has chosen, wisely or not, to expose himself and his firm to one of the great roulette wheels of modern society, the market for initial public offerings. For every moonshot like Fortress, Google, or Netscape, there are dozens of busted deals and failed offerings that slink back to ignominy and obscurity, often for no better reason than the IPO window has decided to shut of its own accord. I would not bet against the success of Mr. Schwarzman and his IPO, but hey, a tall guy can hope, can't he?

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

— Robert Burns, "To A Mouse ..."

Mark your calendars: Blackstone's IPO is scheduled for the week of June 25th.

© 2007 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.