How to make partner at Blackstone

The process involves partner recommendations and a review from the top brass on commercial contributions, leadership and more.

Kathleen McCarthy

Making partner at Blackstone is not simply a waiting game.

In January, three managing directors – Wesley LePatner and Jacob Werner in New York, and Samir Amichi in London – moved up to partner and senior managing director, bringing the real estate team’s partner count to 29 out of 450 employees globally.

The process to becoming partner, which real estate chief operating officer Kathleen McCarthy detailed to PERE, involves a leadership assessment by the firm’s top brass. While there are no set parameters, such as a specific number of years an employee spends in a managing director role, the executive is evaluated based on his or her character, business contributions and other factors.

“The partner group is a really narrow group of true leaders in our business. These are people who have a multifaceted skill set and strong personal attributes.”

– Kathleen McCarthy

The formal procedure officially begins in the fall, when the firm’s partners write a summary of a particular professional’s performance and why he or she deserves a promotion, part of an employee-wide talent review process in October and November.  McCarthy, for example, is involved in reading, reviewing and editing the summaries, though she noted that informal conversations happen well before that process.

“Throughout the year, we’re having conversations with different leaders of our business,” McCarthy explained. “If we’re not sure if they’re ready, we ask why not – maybe they need a stretch assignment or area of feedback. We think it’s on us, not just them, to advance careers.”

Blackstone’s management committee, which includes chief executive Steve Schwarzman, president Tony James and the firm’s platform heads, such as real estate’s Jon Gray, reviews recommendations for all promotions, including partner. The firm does not set yearly or geographic targets for the number of partners it names.

As partners, the employees sit on the real estate investment committee and also join real estate partner meetings. In some cases, the role involves a functional change: Amichi, for example, is taking over as head of Europe acquisitions as part of a larger European leadership transition. Otherwise, McCarthy said the role is largely a continuation of previous responsibilities.

“The partner group is a really narrow group of true leaders in our business,” she said. “These are people who have a multifaceted skill set and strong personal attributes.”

Considerations for the role include commercial contributions, which, depending on the position, is not limited to deal sourcing. “You’re making an impact on our business performance and you’re doing a great job for our LPs,” McCarthy explained.

Wesley LePatner

The firm also evaluates leadership, both vertically and laterally. LePatner, for example, is a “perfect example” of developing both her own team and other employees. The core-plus chief operating officer has helped junior talent grow, which McCarthy said is “key to our mission.”

Managing directors up for partner consideration also have taken so-called stretch assignments, typically working on other teams or in other geographies.

“It leads to bigger roles, expanding responsibility and broader perspective on our business,” McCarthy said.

Finally, the firm looks for good business judgement. “At all times, our partners represent the firm and themselves well,” McCarthy said. “In a situation when they’re on their own, you know they’re going to make the right call.”

Overall, McCarthy said the partner process mirrors the firm’s approach to talent development regardless of position or platform.

“There’s no check-the-box exercise to make partner,” she said. “We’re trying our very best to run a meritocracy.”