Schwarzman’s comic timing

October 28, 2011

Former Kennedy Center chairman Stephen Schwarzman — chairman and co-founder of private equity giant The Blackstone Group — has donated millions to the performing arts center.

And now he has donated the use of his personal helicopter.

Movie stars Ben Stiller and Matthew Broderick needed last-minute transportation between New York and Washington to help fete friend Will Ferrell, who won this year’s Mark Twain Award for comedy at the Oct. 23 Kennedy Center celebration.

With top performers in a squeeze, Schwarzman swung into action, offering his helicopter so the show could go on.

“There are far too few laughs in Washington these days, so I was happy to help out the Kennedy Center when they asked,” Schwarzman said in an e-mail.

Schwarzman did his part. So did his successor and private equity rival, Carlyle Group co-founder and current Kennedy Center Board Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

Rubenstein said the sold-out Twain event reeled in a record $1.2 million for the Kennedy Center.

Rubenstein had help from many businesses and from Dallas businessman Laurence Hirsch — who is a director at Freddie Mac — and his wife, Susan, who co-chaired the event with longtime District residents and philanthropists Marilyn and Bill Lane. Lane was in the automobile dealership business in Washington.

Speaking of auto dealers ...

Jack Fitzgerald, local auto dealer turned grassroots organizer, is turning his attention to a new cause: the estate tax.

The gravel-voiced businessman, born poor on North Capitol and K street, has helped to found Americans Standing for the Simplification of the Estate Tax.

“We’ve been in and out of 100 offices and organizations,” said Fitzgerald. “We haven’t been thrown out yet. People are interested in it. Our proposal eliminates the forced closure of a business or of a farm to pay a 35 percent estate tax, which may soon be raised to 55 percent.”

The coalition hopes to have a bill before Congress in 2012.

Carlyle watch

The Carlyle Group has been up to a lot in the eight weeks since it filed documents to go public.

Randy Whitestone, 50, joined Carlyle’s communications group from asset manager Neuberger Berman, which was spun off from Lehman Brothers after the collapse.

The Carlyle PR team, at 13 strong, has grown from zero a decade ago. The firm’s growth, and the accompanying scrutiny of the financial services industry, are the reason for the increase.

Carlyle’s deal guys have been hopscotching from the U.K. to North Carolina to India, Virginia, Hong Kong and Spain, gobbling up a financial services technology company, a major pharmaceutical testing company, a student travel organization, a digital technology software outfit and a telecommunications equipment provider.

Buy low, sell high?

The Buzz hears:

Social marketing pioneer Pete Snyder and New Media Strategies brass will be ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange this Thursday, celebrating NMS partnering with the stock exchange for the first-ever NYSE Social Media Day.

“It’s a pinch-yourself moment,” said Snyder, who has stayed with NMS after selling the company to Meredith Corp. two years ago.

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is turning its waterfront land into RiverView Terrace, a new private event space that will accommodate up to 1,200. When it opens in spring of 2012, it will be the largest D.C. area venue right on the Potomac.

Georgetown-based Personal is assembling a marketing team, including chief marketing officer Henry “Que” Gaskins, formerly of Nike and Reebok, and vice president Denise Simpson, a veteran of several online companies. Personal, which helps people manage data about themselves, is also adding Harriet Seitler, who is executive vice president of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, to its board of advisers.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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