Blackstone founder Stephen Schwarzman has said he will not support Donald Trump’s bid to reclaim the US presidency, marking a significant defection by a top Republican party donor who defended him in 2020 as the then president baselessly claimed that the election had been stolen.
“America does better when its leaders are rooted in today and tomorrow, not today and yesterday,” Schwarzman said on Wednesday in a statement first reported by Axios. “It is time for the Republican party to turn to a new generation of leaders and I intend to support one of them in the presidential primaries.”
The Blackstone founder is one of several high-profile donors who have publicly criticised Trump in recent weeks, a sign of growing wariness towards the former president’s bid to return to the White House.
Last week, Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of Citadel, publicly endorsed Florida governor Ron DeSantis as his preferred 2024 candidate. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Griffin called Trump “a three-time loser”.
“I’d like to think that the Republican party is ready to move on,” Griffin told the outlet. Griffin has already given $5mn to DeSantis, who won re-election in a landslide in last week’s midterm elections.
Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire owner of News Corp, which helped fuel Trump’s rise, also appears to have broken with the former president.
Since last week’s midterms, News Corp outlets ranging from The New York Post to Fox News have all taken shots at Trump, choosing instead to elevate DeSantis.
On Wednesday, following Trump’s proclamation that he would run again for the presidency, The New York Post ran a strapline at the bottom of its front page simply reading: “Florida man makes announcement.”
Neither Murdoch nor his son Lachlan, News Corp’s co-chair, have commented on the split publicly.
Schwarzman was quick to align with Trump after his surprise 2016 victory, helping to convene a panel of senior business figures to offer advice on jobs and the economy, and accompanying the president on a visit to Saudi Arabia that was the first foreign trip of his term.
Their relationship sometimes paid dividends for Schwarzman’s private equity firm. In 2017, Riyadh pledged to match up to $20bn in contributions from other investors to a Blackstone fund that planned to invest in power plants, toll roads and similar assets, mostly in the US.
But it also attracted controversy. After a 2017 gathering of rightwing extremists in Charlottesville, Virginia, culminated in the murder of a counterprotestor, Schwarzman said he received hundreds of emails accusing him of being a Nazi.
Schwarzman’s advisory panel disbanded itself soon after Trump proclaimed there was “blame on both sides” of the Charlottesville protests. Schwarzman has said he “wasn’t outraged” by the remarks.
The Blackstone founder also expressed support for Trump after his disputed 2020 election loss. Amid widespread alarm over Trump’s efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory by pushing baseless theories of electoral fraud, Schwarzman told fellow chief executives that the president was within his rights to challenge election results, and predicted that the legal process would take its course.
GOP donors said Schwarzman’s public break with Trump could encourage other high-profile donors as well as Republican political leaders to follow suit, potentially stymying Trump’s White House bid.
“The most important thing is party leadership, donors, voters make clear we don’t want Trump,” said Eric Levine, a Republican party fundraiser. “He’s a loser. And he’s destroying the party and he’s destroying the party’s brand.”
Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor who gave $100,000 to Trump’s re-election campaign, said he was now “on the fence” about supporting him in 2024.
“Trump’s donor base is not what it was two years ago,” Eberhart said. “I have spoken to a few dozen donors in the last two days and the consensus seems to be ready for new blood.”