When biz journalists anoint kings
It’s a dangerous business for business journalists to be naming kings, points out TheDeal.com executive editor Yvette Kantrow in her latest column.
Kantrow wrote, “Just ask BusinessWeek. In 1985, the magazine crowned Salomon Brothers CEO John Gutfreund ‘King of Wall Street’ for his firm’s seemingly unstoppable bond-trading prowess. Two years later, a profit-shedding Salomon was fighting off a takeover attempt by Ron Perelman; four years later, Gutfreund was resigning amid a nasty Treasury bond trading scandal. Not very kingly.
“So you would think magazines would approach the kingmaking business with trepidation, especially on Wall Street, where fortunes rise and fall with all the predictability of the Shanghai market. But Fortune, for one, is undeterred. As everybody knows by now, the magazine crowned Blackstone Group LP’s Steve SchwarzÂman ‘The New King of Wall Street.’ Lucky guy.
“Fortune seems only dimly aware that such a coronation is not without its issues. Becoming the ‘symbol of a new era in finance’ is ‘always a risky proposition,’ it notes. Still, the magazine’s infatuation with its ‘man of the moment’ is palpable, from Blackstone’s domination of ‘the iconic business of this decade â€” private equity,’ to its (allegedly) record-breaking deal for Equity Office Properties Trust, to his much-chronicled 60th birthday party, which has inexplicably been treated as the second coming of Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball. Hmm, let’s see. The guest list for Capote’s gala is viewed as the definitive social index of its time; Schwarzman’s bash featured a performance by Rod Stewart, who reportedly belted out ‘If You Think I’m Sexy.’ You be the judge.
“But we digress. No sooner had the ink on Fortune’s ode to SchwarzÂman dried (every Wall Street clichÃ© from Gordon Gekko to Masters of the Universe makes an appearance here) but news broke that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Texas Pacific Group were making a $45 billion run for TXU Corp., topping Blackstone’s $39 billion EOP deal. ‘And that would mean that Henry R. Kravis, a co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, has managed to upstage, at least for the time being, his longtime rival in deals, Stephen A. Schwarzman, a co-founder of Blackstone,’ The New York Times opined on Feb. 24 in a page 1 story.
“Uh-oh. Had the media been feting the wrong guy?”
Read more here.