Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Friday, April 13, 2018

Blackstone's Schwarzman tries to buy a public high school

Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone, and Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors, with President Trump at a Strategy and Policy Forum meeting in February. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times        
Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and chief operating officer of the global private equity firm the Blackstone Group, has amassed a $12.2 billion fortune, according to Forbes magazine. As the largest alternative investment firm in the world, Blackstone specializes in private equity, credit and hedge fund investment strategies. Blackstone has around $434 billion under its management and is a big player in teacher pension funds.

A friend of President Trump, Schwarzman graduated from Abington (PA) Senior High School in 1965, and 40 years later, in 2005, donated $400,000 so the school’s football stadium could be renamed for him.

Billionaires have been involved for years in education, donating parts of their fortunes to schools and to education initiatives, raising objections from advocates who believe the wealthy should not be allowed to use their money to influence the conduct of public education.

But Schwarzman had more than a giant tax break in mind this time around, when he offered his alma mater a $25 million "gift". He also demanded the following in return:
  • The school would receive a new name — the Abington Schwarzman High School — and, “for the avoidance of doubt,” officials would make sure the name was displayed, “at a minimum,” at the front and above each of the six entrances.
  • Parts of the campus would be named after his brothers, former high school track coach and two friends on the track team.
  • Schwarzman’s portrait would appear “prominently” in the school.
  • Schwarzman would have input into the construction of the new campus, which is set to be done in 2022, including the right to approve contractors.
  • He would receive regular reports on the progress of a computer literacy initiative.
  • The agreement would be kept secret unless Schwarzman approved its release.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The board approved the pact without community input, and when residents learned that Schwarzman had essentially bought naming rights to the school, they pushed to get details, the story said. The board waited a few weeks after approving the contract to release it to the public — but by then, the board had rescinded the agreement and promised to vote on a new pact with most of the earlier demands stripped out.
 “When you’re that rich and giving those level of gifts, you’re really used to getting what you want,” said Maria Di Mento, a staff writer and expert on big philanthropic donations at the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all done without considering how bad it was going to look to outsiders,” Di Mento said. “This is a public school district. This is not Yale.”