Stephen Schwarzman is the Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of the Blackstone Group – the world’s largest private equity firm with USD$311 billion of Assets Under Management (AUM) as of 2015. As chairman of an alternative asset management firm, he invests in businesses, real estate and hedge funds to generate returns for his investors, providing capital for capital-seekers. Worth USD$12.6 billion, Schwarzman is commonly referred to as the ‘King of Private Equity’. He has been in the private equity game and adapted his business strategy through the boom period of the 1980s and the post-crash lulls of 2001 and 2008 – where Blackstone coolly bought assets on the cheap and reaped gigantic returns in the following years. Those looking for an arbiter of private equity, or of corporate business in general, need look no further than Stephen Schwarzman.
Laurence Fink is the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with USD$4.5 trillion of AUM. No firm has more money entrusted to it than BlackRock. As one of the co-founders in 1988, Fink’s drive and ambition led BlackRock to becoming a titan in both equity and fixed income asset management. As a result of its holdings in index funds and ETFs (exchange-traded funds), BlackRock itself essentially holds a significant portion of the entire U.S market capitalisation. The sheer size alone of BlackRock gives Fink great responsibility for the world’s largest economy. Fink manages the mammoth funds with Aladdin – BlackRock’s sophisticated risk analytics operating system. The names are also no coincidence; BlackRock was interestingly once a part of Blackstone before it was sold off.
As head of the U.S Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen is responsible for monetary policy – the supply and growth of credit – in the world’s largest economy. Her decisions influence public and private markets alike, with any decision regarding interest rates potentially moving markets. Accordingly, her comments on the economy in general, particularly those on inflation, unemployment and interest rates, are often scrutinised as an indication of the Federal Reserve’s slant towards a particular policy strategy. These expectations are watched closely and speculated on around the world. Beyond the financial markets realm, the strength and growth of the U.S economy, and hence the rest of the global intertwined economies, are very much spurred by credit cycles influenced by the Federal Reserve.
The ‘Icahn Lift’ – which refers to the rise in share price that follows when Carl Icahn begins buying stock in a company, is testament to the power the famed corporate raider and activist shareholder yields in financial markets. Worth $21.3 billion, Icahn first began buying shares of undervalued companies in the 70s, building up his fortune and buying power with outsized returns. Icahn builds up controlling stakes in companies and pushes for management and policy changes to boost shareholder value; these include strategic and operational changes, share buybacks as well as divesting and cost cutting, etc. Known for his negotiating skills and fierce competitiveness, in 2014 Icahn wrote an open letter to the world’s largest company by market capitalisation, Apple Inc., asking CEO Tim Cook to buy back shares to boost shareholder value.