Blackstone’s Schwarzman bids for gold with Olympic gift

Britney Reese, the Olympic gold and silver medalist in the women’s long jump, is hoping to become her fourth U.S. team this week when she competes for a place on the U.S. delegation to Tokyo.

Funding for its preparations to get there has come largely from an unexpected source: Blackstone founder Stephen Schwarzman.

“He’s the only person I know who’s been so generous, and I’ve met him,” said Reese, 34. Last summer, she was one of 25 Olympic candidates selected to receive a $25,000 grant thanks to Schwarzman’s generosity, an amount she says constitutes her only guaranteed income this year.

Since 2013, the private equity giant has become the largest single donor to the USA Track & Field Foundation, committing $12 million to training athletes for games. While a small amount for a man’s net worth Estimated at $29 billionHis status as a primary supporter of athletes like Reese is indicative of the lack of financial resources available to Olympians even in rich countries like the United States.

“A lot of these athletes actually live side by side, which is hard to believe, they have to choose between eating and where they can live,” Schwarzman said. Unlike some American professional sports leagues, which have guaranteed minimum salaries to players protected by collective bargaining agreements, Olympic hopefuls are independent contractors who rely on sponsorships or donations.

“I think the United States [Olympic system] Schwarzman said that athletes and athletes who receive funding are somewhat disadvantaged by our structure, largely on the whim of “how popular the sport is and whether it can find donors.”

Stephen Schwarzman with US track and field athletes receive grants from Blackstone founder © Bertrand Roberts

Reese, like many field athletes in particular, has a sponsorship contract with Nike, but this year she will only earn money if she meets certain performance criteria, such as getting a spot on the team to Tokyo through a placement at the US Olympic Trials that conduct this. A week in Eugene, Oregon.

“We didn’t get the recognition a runner would get, that’s an American problem,” Reese said.

Shoe companies traditionally make up the bulk of an aspiring Olympian’s income, although changes across the industry have disrupted the endorsement market. Nike, for its part, is in the middle prolonged restructuring, and Under Armor radically tied again Spend it on sports marketing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated such a shortage. World Athletics, the sport’s global governing body, relied on private donations to fund needs-based salaries of $3,000 for nearly 200 athletes worldwide last year. This week, the group He said it will be dedicated An additional $1 million prize money for the winners of the next two world championships – money it said would be drawn from fines paid by the Russian Athletics Federation for anti-doping violations.

Schwarzman and his fellow athletes in 1963

Schwarzman, far right, with his fellow Mileage Relay champions at Bain Relays in 1963 © Thomas Clements

Schwarzman was a high school runner who grew up outside of Philadelphia, specialized in the 220 and 440-yard track races, and as an undergraduate at Yale University, he was a classmate with 1972 Olympic marathon champion Frank Schurter. “We were in English class together,” he said.

But he didn’t get involved in the sport financially until 2012. At the London Olympics that year, he watched American middle-distance runner Morgan Osini run around and land on the penultimate lap of the 1500m championship – an experience he described as “overwhelming” and motivated him to connect with her through mutual connections .

“I didn’t know who he was at the time,” said Yosini, who has since retired from the sport. Schwarzman said it was their meeting, shortly after the London Games, that motivated his donations. He has since invited grant recipients to Blackstone Headquarters each year for an annual lunch.

He admits that not all of them are familiar with the world of private equity. “They will ask me to describe what I do, and ask me how things work,” he said.

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Despite his personal commitments to track and field, Schwarzman said Blackstone is not looking to join the battle of other private equity firms. Rush to sports investments, Such as CVC Capital Partners And the Dial Capital.

“We don’t have a focus on sports as a business,” he said. “It’s not something we’re actively looking for.”

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