The gargantuan private-equity business is undergoing a massive generational shift these days, with a whole new cadre of leaders taking control of, cumulatively, more than $1 trillion in dry powder. At Blackstone, the emperor of the industry with some $730 billion of assets under management, co-founder Steve Schwarzman (age 74, net worth these days: $41 billion) has designated Jon Gray, 51, as his successor, even as he remains understandably reluctant to relinquish center stage. At KKR, co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts, both 77, have turned over the reins of the firm, founded in 1976, to Scott Nuttall and Joe Bae. At the Carlyle Group, co-founders David Rubenstein, William Conway, and Dan D’Aniello have moved on and out in favor of Kewsong Lee. (Lee’s co-C.E.O., Glenn Youngkin, gave up the role in part to run for governor of Virginia, a race he won on Tuesday.) In May, the co-founders of TPG handed over the sole C.E.O. role to Jon Winkelreid. (TPG is an investor in Puck.)
Then, of course, there is the succession drama that played out earlier this year at Apollo Global Management. This was succession of a different sort—more Succession than succession—driven by crisis, rather than by careful planning. While all the details remain publicly scarce, you can rest assured that the process by which Marc Rowan took over from Leon Black at Apollo was hardly textbook, even though it all may work out just fine. (Apollo’s stock is up more than 60 percent since Rowan succeeded Black in March.)
I had lunch with Rowan in September. We dined on salads, using plastic silverware, at Apollo’s new cafeteria in its Manhattan headquarters at 9 West 57th Street. He was eager to show it to me. I’ve known Rowan for 30 years, from back in the days when Apollo was just starting out and I was a young Wall Street investment banker covering the burgeoning private-equity industry. Our latest conversation was off-the-record, so I can’t report about it. But I can tell you that I’ve never seen him happier, more energetic, and more inspired by the responsibility he has been given to lead Apollo at this critical juncture. It’s almost as if he’s been waiting to come out from under Black’s shadow, or yoke, for decades. It’s fascinating to watch, to be honest. I, for one, didn’t think Rowan had it in him to be an enthusiastic leader of one of the most important bellwethers of finance.