The University of Oxford has raked in more millions from Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman – one of the wealthiest individuals in the United States who’s known to whitewash his predatory business practices through charitable giving. Blackstone spent millions to kill rent control ballot measures in California, and the United Nations deemed the corporate landlord a key player in fueling the global housing affordability crisis. Yet Oxford, MIT, Yale, and other institutions have accepted hundreds of millions in donations from Schwarzman, who’s net worth is $33.3 billion. In 2021, when many Americans were struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, he collected a staggering $1.1 billion in salary and dividends.
What happened: On March 13, the Oxford Mail reported that the University of Oxford grabbed another $33.5 million (25 million GBP) from Schwarzman to complete a humanities center at the prestigious school. The billionaire initially delivered $188.7 million (150 million GBP) for the building. In total, Oxford has accepted a whopping $222.2 million in donations from Schwarzman.
What the United Nations said about Schwarzman: In 2019, Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on the Right to Housing, and Surya Deva, the chair-rapporteur of the United Nations Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations, sent a series of letters to Schwarzman and government officials in several countries, including the United States. The letters grabbed global headlines for its searing critique of Schwarzman’s company.
“Blackstone’s and its subsidiaries’ business model is pushing low-income, and increasingly middle-income, people from their homes,” wrote Farha and Deva. “Blackstone’s practices… have abruptly increased the rental payments of single-family rentals, making them unaffordable for millions of existing residents; decreased the availability and affordability of social housing; and has undertook aggressive evictions to protect rental income streams to satisfy investors.”
What Oxford faculty and students said about the billionaire: Also in 2019, Schwarzman came under fire from Oxford faculty and students when he gave $188.7 million to the university. In an open letter, they wrote that the humanities center, which will bear Schwarzman’s name, “will be built with the proceeds of the exploitation and disenfranchisement of vulnerable people across the world.” They opposed Oxford’s acceptance of the billionaire’s mega-donation.
How Schwarzman killed rent control (twice) in California: In 2018 and 2020, housing justice activists placed initiatives on the statewide ballot in California that would have allowed localities to expand rent control. Blackstone and Schwarzman were among the leading contributors to the Big Real Estate-funded opposition campaigns, which ultimately killed the measures. In addition to delivering millions in campaign cash, Blackstone used a shell committee to quietly funnel millions to the real estate industry’s “no” campaign in 2020. Housing Is A Human Right exposed Schwarzman’s stealth giving.
Housing Is A Human Right’s take: Our special report, “Modern-Day Robber Baron: The Sins of Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman,” shows that the billionaire has a long history of controversial politics and predatory business practices to enrich himself at the expense of hard-working people. Blackstone has also been a central figure in fueling the global housing affordability crisis. Yet he uses charitable giving to whitewash his harmful actions that have negatively impacted millions of people around the globe. The University of Oxford and other institutions are actively participating in that whitewash by accepting his donations. They must immediately stop taking money from billionaire Stephen Schwarzman.