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Blackstone’s real estate arm is in exclusive talks to acquire a majority stake in the real estate portfolio of Spain’s failed Banco Popular, which was acquired (read: bailed out) by Santandar bank in June. Blackstone would reportedly take a 51% stake in the assets, which Santander estimates are worth about 30 billion euros ($35.2 billion). The portfolio includes properties as well as non-performing loans.

Details are in this Reuters story.


Apollo Global Management set a new record for private equity fundraising, amassing $24.6 billion in commitments for a new fund — topping the $21.7 billion record set by Blackstone in 2007, before the financial crisis. Apollo’s last fund, raised three years ago, topped out at $18.4 billion.

More details in the Bloomberg story.

The masters program in leadership that Steve Schwarzman has funded at Tsinghua University in Beijing, announced several years ago, finally got underway for real last month, with the first class entered. The program brings together foreign and Chinese students.

“This is the first time in 200 years where instead of the Chinese leaving to get educated, the best and brightest of the West are coming to China for no reason other than to just understand China,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Schwarzman as saying.

Joe Barratta, Blackstone’s head of corporate private equity, was interviewed by Bloomberg’s Jason Kelly about the state of private equity in this video.

Baratta was the partner responsible for Blackstone’s highly successful investment in Merlin Entertainments, which operates the London Eye, Legoland, Madame Tussaud’s and other attractions. Chapter 11 of the book explains how Blackstone helped the company expand to the point it is a rival to Disney in entertainment sites.

As anyone who works in Midtown Manhattan or the Upper East Side can testify, gridlock awaits the locals every year at this season when the United Nations General Assembly meets. Streets are blocked, and traffic is halted for motorcades. Prime ministers and presidents shuttle from place to place. Having a limo and driver doesn’t help in the struggle to get to the office. Hence Steve Schwarzman took the subway this week … and the firm tweeted a photo of the CEO on the 6 train, which runs down Lexington Avenue, by the back door to Blackstone’s office.

Last year Steve Schwarzman announced a $100 million donation to found a scholarship program to support foreign students studying at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. Now a Chinese businesswoman Schwarzman approached about contributing to his program has decided instead to fund her own scholarships — for Chinese student to come to the U.S., the New York Times reported.

Giant leveraged buyouts no longer sustain private equity firms as they did through the mid-2000s. Thus Blackstone and its peers have scrambled to expand into other assets classes, creating funds to invest in loans and bonds, buying hedge fund managers and seeding technology companies.

In a recent feature, David Carey, Pierre Pauldin and Sabrina Willmer explained Blackstone’s new Tactical Opportunities Fund, which has the freedom to invest in a much wider range of assets than the firm’s conventional buyout funds.

In another recent story, David chronicled similar moves by Blackstone’s rival KKR to diversify.

You may have heard that Steve Schwarzman had a big 60th birthday party. That was in 2007.

This week the buzz is the 60th b’day bash for another private equity mogul, Leon Black, last weekend in the Hamptons. A New York Times story on the festivities has elicited a string of bitter reader’s comments.

That has now prompted Dan Primack, a blogger for Fortune, to come to Black’s defense in a posting headlined “Lay Off Leon.” The opening line: “A rich guy threw a party. Get over it.”

Who knew that private equity had friends?

Jonathan Gray, the unassuming co-head of Blackstone’s real estate investment business, gets his due this month in a colorful profile, “Jonathan Gray, Blackstone’s Real Estate Wizard Behind the Curtain,” in the New York Observer.

We devote a chapter to his signature deal, the buyout of Equity Office Properties in 2007, which remains Blackstone’s largest deal ever, and is likely to be one of its biggest successes.

When we wrapped up King of Capital a year ago, Blackstone’s massive, $5.5 billion investment in a $29 billion buyout of the Hilton hotel chain looked like it could be a dog. The company was in no danger of going under, but the deal was signed at the very peak of the market in July 2007 and travel dropped off sharply in the recession. That looked like a recipe for a bad investment.

But no sooner had Blackstone talked Hilton’s bankers into reducing its debt and the company began a nearly miraculous turnaround, as David recounts in a recent feature in The Deal. Blackstone could easily double its money if the company stays on course.

Another large bet on the travel industry, isn’t doing so well for Blackstone, however. We cited Travelport, a back-end reservations system for airlines and travel portals such as its subsidiary Orbitz, as an example of a case where private equity ownership allowed a major restructuring that dramatically improved the company. A year ago, it looked like that would pay off on the bottom line. But now Travelport is plagued by problems, including a sluggish airline industry, mergers among major airline customers (Delta + Northwestern, then United + Continental) and an antitrust suit filed against it by American Airlines.

Travelport, which is leveraged to the hilt, has seen its cash flow fall and, this week, its debt rating was cut, as David explains in another story in The Deal.

We stick by our conclusion that Blackstone’s ownership was good for the company and, if Blackstone had exited in an IPO last year, as it hoped, it might have been a winner. Blackstone recouped almost all of its investment via a dividend in 2007, so it likely won’t lose money on the deal. But, based on Travelport’s current financial results and the valuation of Amadeus, a publicly traded competitor, Blackstone’s investment at the moment is worth nothing on paper. Plainly, things will have to improve if Blackstone is going to do more than just break even.