Tony James knows it’s not over.
The president of New York-based Blackstone Group — a firm that helped define the modern private equity landscape and now owns everything from Hilton Hotels to Legoland — said the assault on the buyout business is bound to resume.
With private equity poster boy Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee, James believes the attacks that exploded during the primaries will come back as the general election heats up.
“There were some pretty bad hits to the industry” as fellow Republicans like Newt Gingrich criticized Romney’s leveraged buyout past, James told reporters today on a conference call. “I expect the industry will take more blows from the campaign.”
The Obama campaign told donors in the financial services world earlier this year that the president won’t go after Wall Street, a sentiment James pointed out today. That won’t stop the so-called super-PACs, he said. Those well-funded, technically unaffiliated groups are likely to take dead aim at the lucrative corner of investing world where Romney made his fortune as the founder and CEO of Bain Capital.
James himself is an Obama guy, and is set to hold a fundraiser for the president this spring at his Connecticut home. That puts the 61-year-old on the opposite side of the aisle from his boss, Steve Schwarzman, who already threw a Manhattan fundraiser for Romney last year.
Blackstone, with $190 billion in assets spread across private equity, real estate and hedge funds, has been among the firms aiming to change the conversation about private equity, especially as it relates to jobs. James reminded reporters on the call, scheduled to discuss the firm’s first-quarter earnings, that Blackstone-owned companies increased employment in the U.S. by 4.6 percent last year, versus 1.3 percent for the broader economy.