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Steve Schwarzman Says U.S. Political Battles Recall Pre-Civil War Era

Benjamin Robertson

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. politics is nearly as heated and polarized now as it was in the runup to the Civil War, according to Blackstone Group Inc. co-founder Steve Schwarzman.

“We are clearly going through some very unusual times and enormous difficulties getting groups of people to agree on things,” Schwarzman said in an interview with Bloomberg TV anchor Francine Lacqua. The “adversarial nature” of today’s debates recalls the situation in the 1850s, “when people weren’t even civil in politics,” he said.

Schwarzman, who has a fortune of about $16 billion, is a prominent adviser to President Donald Trump. He’s also the president’s Palm Beach neighbor, a regular guest at his Mar-a-Lago resort and one of his most generous donors. And he has at times functioned as an intermediary between the U.S. and Chinese governments.

The Blackstone chief said his assistance hasn’t been limited to Trump.

“It is not just this president,” he said. “There have been other ones. People need advice or they need help in some area. I am like an equal opportunity employer: if I can do something that’s helpful in my view -- not bias, but helpful for the greater good -- I like to do things like that.”

Read more: Private Equity Wields More Power Than Ever as Warren Picks Fight

Schwarzman said the image of private equity funds loading up the companies they acquire with debt and adding no value was wrong. Fund managers need to make companies grow if investors are to make a profit, he said.

Asked how to spot an overheated market, Schwarzman pointed to the issuance of debt securities that pay no interest and an abundance of available credit as signals.

“When your stupid friends are getting rich, this is usually a sign there is too much credit available,” he said.

--With assistance from Francine Lacqua.

To contact the reporter on this story: Benjamin Robertson in London at brobertson29@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shelley Robinson at ssmith118@bloomberg.net, Patrick Henry

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