Nov 11, 2021 - Economy

Exclusive: Blackstone hits goal of hiring 100,000 veterans

A briefcase covered in camouflage print, on a red background.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Blackstone Group will announce Thursday that it has reached its goal of having its portfolio companies hire 100,000 military veterans and spouses over the past eight years.

Why it matters: U.S. military veterans have higher rates of unemployment and suicide than do nonveterans.

History: Blackstone's initiative dates back to 2013, when Michelle Obama made a presentation to the Business Roundtable that included information about veteran suicides.

  • "I was sitting in the front row and she was talking about 22 military people per day killing themselves, and asking the business community to make a five-year commitment to help do something about it," remembers Blackstone founder and CEO Steve Schwarzman, who once served in the Army Reserves. "I was really affected by it because it's such a big deal to serve, as opposed to being in the private sector."
  • Schwarzman flew home to New York and, before he reached his apartment, dictated a note to Michelle Obama that Blackstone would commit to hiring 50,000 vets over the next five years.
  • "It was a very atypical thing for me to do, and not how we normally make decisions at Blackstone," he explains. "I went into our management committee meeting the next day and everyone was suitably surprised."
  • Blackstone then worked with government officials at Defense and Labor, plus Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, to develop an infrastructure to connect vets with Blackstone job opportunities. It also created a veterans affinity group inside of Blackstone, and worked with portfolio companies on issues of onboarding and integration.

By the numbers: Blackstone hit its 50,000 goal within four years, and then set out to do the same thing again.

  • Overall, the firm's portfolio companies (non-real estate) employ around 560,000 people around the world. Recent acquisitions include Allstate Life Insurance, Bumble and Signature Aviation.

Look ahead: Blackstone doesn't plan to set a new veteran hiring goal, instead folding the initiative into a program called "Career Pathways" that's designed to help portfolio companies expand their job applicant pools beyond traditional candidates.

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