Peter George Peterson

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Peter George Peterson
PeterGeorgePeterson.jpg
20th United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
February 29, 1972 – February 1, 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Maurice Stans
Succeeded by Frederick B. Dent
Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations
In office
1985–2007
Preceded by David Rockefeller
Succeeded by Carla A. Hills / Robert E. Rubin
Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
In office
2000–2004
Personal details
Born (1926-06-05) June 5, 1926 (age 87)
Kearney, Nebraska
Spouse(s) Joan Ganz Cooney

Peter George "Pete" Peterson (born June 5, 1926) is an American businessman, investment banker, fiscal conservative, philanthropist, and author, who served as United States Secretary of Commerce from February 29, 1972 to February 1, 1973. He is currently best known as founder and principal funder of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which he established in 2008 with a $1 billion endowment. The group focuses on raising public awareness about U.S. fiscal-sustainability issues related to federal deficits, entitlement programs, and tax policies.[1]

Before serving in the White House, Peterson was Chairman and CEO of Bell & Howell, from 1963 to 1971. From 1973 to 1984 he was Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers. In 1985 he co-founded the private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, which went public in 2007. Peterson was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations until retiring in 2007, after being named chairman emeritus. In 2008, Peterson was ranked 149th on the "Forbes 400 Richest Americans" with a net worth of $2.8 billion.

Peterson has been named the most influential billionaire in U.S. politics.[2]

On August 4, 2010, it was announced that he had signed "The Giving Pledge." He was one of 40 billionaires, led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who agreed to give at least half their wealth to charity.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Peterson was born in Kearney, Nebraska, the son of Venet and George Peterson, Greek immigrants.[4] His father opened and ran a diner in 1923 after changing his name from Georgios Petropoulos. He is married to Joan Ganz Cooney, a creator of Sesame Street, and a stepmother to Peterson's five children.[5] In his autobiography he recalls his business and private life in which he blames himself for the failure of two of his three marriages but is now proud of having grown close to his children and grandchildren.[6]

Education[edit]

Peterson, after dropping out of MIT, received an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, graduating in 1947, summa cum laude. He joined Market Facts, a Chicago-based market research firm, in 1948.[7] In 1951, he received an M.B.A. degree from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, before returning to Market Facts as an executive vice president.

Career[edit]

Peterson joined advertising agency McCann Erickson in 1953, again in Chicago, where he served as a director. He joined movie-equipment maker Bell and Howell Corporation in 1958 as Executive Vice President. He later succeeded Charles H. Percy as Chairman and CEO, positions he held from 1963 to 1971. He has been a director of a number of other corporations.

In 1969, he was invited by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III, CFR Chairman John J. McCloy, and former Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon to chair a Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy, which became known as the Peterson Commission. Among its recommendations adopted by the government were that foundations be required annually to disburse a minimum proportion of their funds.

In 1971, he was named Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs by U.S. President Richard Nixon. In 1972, he became the Secretary of Commerce, a position he held for one year. At that time he also assumed the Chairmanship of President Nixon’s National Commission on Productivity and was appointed U.S. Chairman of the U.S.–Soviet Commercial Commission.

He was Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers (1973–1977) and Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc. (1977–1984).[8]

In 1985, he co-founded with Stephen A. Schwarzman the prominent private equity and investment management firm, the Blackstone Group, and was for many years its chairman.[9] It was the fortune he made at Blackstone, including the $1.9 billion he received when it went public in 2007, that funded many of his charitable and political causes.[10][11]

Peterson swearing in the first woman officer of the NOAA Corps.

In 1992, he was one of the co-founders of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan citizens' group that advocates reduction of the federal budget deficit. Following record deficits under President George W. Bush, Peterson commented in 2004, "I remain a Republican, but the Republicans have become a far more theological, faith-directed party, not troubling with evidence."[12]

In February 1994, President Bill Clinton named Peterson as a member of the Bi-Partisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform co-chaired by Senators Bob Kerrey and John Danforth. He also serves as Co-Chair of the Conference Board Commission on Public Trust and Private Enterprises (Co-Chaired by John Snow).

He succeeded David Rockefeller as Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations in 1985 and served until his retirement in 2007. He currently serves as Trustee of the Rockefeller family's Japan Society and of the Museum of Modern Art, and was previously on the board of Rockefeller Center Properties, Inc.

He is founding Chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (formerly the "Institute for International Economics", renamed in his honor in 2006), and a Trustee of the Committee for Economic Development. He was also Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York between 2000 and 2004.

In 2008, he founded the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF), an organization devoted to spreading public awareness on fiscal sustainability issues related to the national debt, federal deficits, entitlement programs, and tax policies. PGPF distributed the 2008 documentary film I.O.U.S.A.,and did outreach to the 2008 presidential candidates.[13]

Peterson funds The Fiscal Times, a news website that reports on current economic issues, including the federal budget, the growing deficit, entitlements, health care, personal savings, taxation, and the global economy. Fiscal Times contributors and editors include several veteran economics reporters for the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Honors[edit]

In 2006 Peterson was honored with the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution. The same year he was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Politics[edit]

From 2007 through 2011, Peterson contributed $458 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Many of the Foundations initiatives cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and various safety net programs that aid the poor as in a state of crisis, and in need of dramatic cuts.[14]

Writings[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Facing Up: How to Rescue the Economy from Crushing Debt and Restore the American Dream. Simon & Schuster; First Edition (November 8, 1993). ISBN 978-0-671-79642-6
  • Will America Grow up Before it Grows Old: How the Coming Social Security Crisis Threatens You, Your Family and Your Country. Random House; 1 edition (October 8, 1996). ISBN 978-0-679-45256-0
  • Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America—and the World. Three Rivers Press (September 26, 2000). ISBN 978-0-8129-9069-0
  • On Borrowed Time: How the Growth in Entitlement Spending Threatens America's Future with Neil Howe. Transaction Publishers (May 1, 2004). ISBN 978-0-7658-0575-1
  • Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It. Picador (June 16, 2005). ISBN 978-0-312-42462-6
  • The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street, and Beyond. Twelve (June 8, 2009). ISBN 978-0-446-55603-3

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.pgpf.org/Issues/Fiscal-Outlook/2011/06/QA-with-Peter-Peterson.aspx
  2. ^ Hiltzik, Michael (October 2, 2012). "Unmasking the most influential billionaires in U.S. politics". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.glasspockets.org/philanthropy-in-focus/eye-on-the-giving-pledge/profiles/peterson
  4. ^ Vexler, Robert I (1975). The Vice-Presidents and Cabinet members: Biographies arranged chronologically by Administration. ISBN 9780379120905. 
  5. ^ Biography: Joan Ganz Cooney
  6. ^ Hurt, Hary (June 20, 2009). "Go East, Young Man, and Make Your Fortune". The New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Peter G. Peterson". Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. 
  8. ^ Ken Auletta, Greed and Glory on Wall Street: The Fall of the House of Lehman, search pages, (Random House, December 12, 1985), ISBN 1-58567-088-X[page needed]
  9. ^ David Carey & John E. Morris, King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone, (Crown 2010), pp. 45-56
  10. ^ Blackstone IPO Prospectus, http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1393818/000104746907005160/a2178575z424b4.htm
  11. ^ King of Capital, p. 5
  12. ^ Robert Kuttner (December 27, 2004). "What Killed Off The GOP Deficit Hawks?". BusinessWeek. 
  13. ^ Bryan Bender, Movement warns of US bankruptcy, Seeks support for overhaul of federal budget, Boston Globe, July 10, 2008.
  14. ^ Grim, Ryan; Blumenthal, Paul (May 15, 2012). "What Half A Billion Dollars Buys You In Washington". Huffington Post. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Maurice Stans
U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Served under: Richard Nixon

February 29, 1972 – February 1, 1973
Succeeded by
Frederick B. Dent