Stephen Schwarzman, Fierce Foe of Rent Control, Lands on Top 25 List of Wealthiest Americans
Corporate landlord Stephen Schwarzman, the controversial CEO of Blackstone Group, has been ranked by CEOWorld magazine as the one of the 25 wealthiest people in the United States. In 2018 and 2020, Blackstone shelled out millions to successfully defeat rent control ballot measures in California. The statewide initiatives would have stopped Blackstone and Schwarzman from continuing to charge wildly excessive rents.
According to CEOWorld, Schwarzman is the nineteenth richest American with a staggering net worth of $29.5 billion. Schwarzman had made his fortune by investing heavily in rental housing, with Blackstone turning into one of the largest corporate landlords in the world. Yet Blackstone was cited by United Nations experts as a key company that fueled the global housing affordability crisis.
In 2020, Housing Is A Human Right published a widely read special report about the billionaire, titled “Modern-Day Robber Baron: The Sins of Stephen Schwarzman.” It detailed Schwarzman’s rise as a cutthroat executive; his controversial connections to former President Donald Trump; his equally controversial charitable giving to major institutions so he could whitewash his predatory business practices; and Blackstone’s key role in fueling the global housing affordability crisis, among many other sins.
In 2020, for example, middle- and working-class Californians were getting slammed by unfair, excessive rents and were struggling to keep their homes. A broad coalition of housing justice groups, social justice organizations, and labor unions sought to reform statewide rent control restrictions through Proposition 21 so localities could quickly provide relief by capping rents. Blackstone, however, used a shell committee to funnel millions into the No on Prop 21 campaign, attempting a slick move to avoid public scrutiny.
Housing Is A Human Right exposed Blackstone’s shady dealing, but Schwarzman and other corporate landlords ended up defeating the initiative at the ballot box by spending nearly $100 million in campaign contributions. With no regulations to rein in corporate landlords, rents continue to sky-rocket in California, fueling the homelessness crisis.
While Californians struggle to stay housed, Schwarzman owns mansions in New York, Saint-Tropez, Jamaica, and Palm Beach, where he’s a neighbor of Trump. Schwarzman was a close advisor to Trump during his presidency, and Blackstone delivered more than $400 million to the problematic real estate projects of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Schwarzman also contributed at least $4.4 million to Trump’s re-election campaign or political committees connected to Trump.
In 2019, United Nations housing experts Leilani Farha and Surya Deva wrote a scathing letter to Schwarzman, pointing out that Blackstone uses “its significant resources and political leverage to undermine domestic laws and policies that would in fact improve access to adequate housing consistent with international human rights law.”
Through it all, grabbing more billions for himself was the underlying motive for Schwarzman — his endless self-promotion to cast himself as a humanitarian has long been considered a sick joke among activists. Considering all the human wreckage Schwarzman has caused to become one of the richest Americans, the billionaire’s appearance on CEOWorld’s top 25 list may be another one.
Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this story, is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.