A legend of the private equity industry is retiring.
Ken Whitney, a senior managing director at The Blackstone Group who has long overseen the investor relations and business development group and helped launch its corporate debt business, has informed the firm of his intention to retire, according to an internal Blackstone email from Monday seen by Private Equity International. Blackstone declined to comment.
According to the email, Whitney will not be completely leaving the firm, retaining a role as a senior advisor. It’s not clear if someone will be stepping into Whitney’s role at Blackstone. Two market sources described a shift over the past few years in Blackstone’s investor relations function, which has migrated from centralised control to more local teams for each business line, potentially obviating the need for a universal head.
“For many years, Ken has spearheaded our efforts both to raise capital from, and maintain relations with, our most important limited partners,” according to the email, which was signed by Blackstone’s chief executive officer Steve Schwarzman and president Tony James.
Whitney joined Blackstone in 1988, only a few years after the firm was founded in 1985, and played a key role in helping the firm launch its real estate business and its Park Hill advisory group, as well as Blackstone’s “first foray” into corporate debt, the email said. Whitney began his career at Coopers & Lybrand in 1980, where he spent time in the firm’s accounting and audit areas as well as in the tax and mergers and acquisitions areas, according to his biography posted on the web site of wealth advisor Central Park Group, where Whitney serves on the board.
“Ken is one of the reasons that Blackstone is a leader across all of its businesses today and we have … benefitted from [both] his counsel and wisdom over many years,” the email said.
Whitney is well known throughout the private equity industry, evidenced by the number of market sources who have been speculating about his retirement announcement in recent weeks. Sources were reluctant to comment on the record until Blackstone makes an official announcement about Whitney’s retirement.
One long-time industry limited partner said: “Ken [is] very professional … congenial, transparent. [He] helped set the standard for providing GP investor relations services to LPs.” A public pension LP who has worked with Whitney said: “Ken is a genuinely nice person, and I'm glad I was able to work with him. He was always accommodating, professional in a calm and affable way and went out of his way to make sure we, as an LP, were provided with the information needed. I wish him the best.”