Peterson had a remarkably varied career. The son of Greek immigrants who owned an all-night diner in Nebraska, he went on to become an advertising executive at McCann Erickson and then CEO of the Bell and Howell electronics company. He served briefly as Secretary of Commerce under Richard Nixon, then joined Lehman Brothers in 1973. When large trading losses nearly sank the bank, he was elevated to CEO and chairman and was credited with turning the firm around. He was elbowed out as chairman in the 1980s in a turf war with the bank’s traders.

He then teamed up with Steve Schwarzman, also from Lehman, to form Blackstone in 1985.

Although semi-retired when Blackstone went public in 2007, Peterson was still the second largest shareholder after Schwarzman. The IPO allowed Peterson to cash out much of his stake, and he netted $1.9 billion from shares he sold in the offering.

In his later years, he was a crusader on behalf of deficit reduction, and led the Council on Foreign Relations and the Peterson Foundation, which he founded.

King of Capital recounts the ups and downs of Peterson’s decade at Lehman and the contributions he made in Blackstone’s early years. Many years older than Schwarzman, he lent gravitas when Blackstone was a startup, and CEOs trusted him because he had been one at three very different companies. He was also known for his integrity … and for his frequent obliviousness to those around him, whether underlings or conniving rivals. As the book reports, he once was spotted leaving the office with a Post-It note on his hat saying, “Don’t forget your hat, Pete.”

 

Obituaries:

Bloomberg News

Washington Post

New York Times

Advertisements