Here's The Sentence That Caused New York City To Cancel A Meeting With Blackstone... Again

Byron Wien

Retired government employees apparently still haven’t gotten over Blackstone’s Byron Wien’s comment about how retirement benefits are too high.

City pension fund managers had recently been considering investing in Blackstone, Steve Schwarzman’s shop. They even had a meeting scheduled with, among other fund-of-fund managers like Legg Mason’s, Blackstone President Tony James on January 7th, according to Bloomberg.

That is, until they remember the comment Byron Wien made a year ago, and how they didn’t appreciate how Blackstone apologized.

What happened was this:

During a Jan. 5 [2010] webcast with Blackstone clients, Mr. Wien answered a question about government deficits by saying, in part:

“The retirement benefits for state workers, really not only in New York, California and New Jersey, but throughout the country, are very generous. Too generous. And it is very hard to change that. … But I think we have to be more realistic. We literally can’t afford the benefits we have given our retirees in state and local governments. And we have to change that.”

Then in June, Blackstone’s Joan Solotar wrote a very nice note saying, among other things (which you can read by clicking here),

Retirees “who put in years of service should have the means needed to live comfortably for the balance of their days.”

And Wien, said he didn’t really mean what he said in an interview:

“I was answering a question about something related to the webcast, and my comments got misconstrued.”

All this happened in January and June of last year, but according to Bloomberg, it’s the reason two NYC pension funds just canceled the January 7th meeting with Blackstone.

Click here to see Byron Wien’s 10 surprises for 2011 >

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