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Blackstone prez: Tax changes not affecting deals

July 19, 2012: 2:32 PM ET

Tony James

Blackstone will sell companies when it wants to, not when an accountant thinks it best.

FORTUNE -- The Blackstone Group (BX) is not making 2012 deals based on expected tax changes in 2013, according to firm president Hamilton "Tony" James.

There has been a school of thought that private equity firms would increase divestitures later this year, in order to book profits at current capital gains tax rates. That current figure is 15%, compared to the 20% figure that will be applied beginning on January 1 (save for some sort of surprise extension, or retroactive reduction by a President Romney).

Not only would the savings be realized by private equity fund managers on their carried interest, but also by certain limited partners in private equity funds (banks, high-net worth individuals, etc.) and members of portfolio company management.

But James said that the 2013 tax bump is not having any impact on Blackstone's divestiture strategy.

"The simple answer is no, not really... most of our limited partners are non-profits, so they don't pay capital gains taxes in the first place," said James, who acknowledged not having thought much about the tax impact on portfolio company management.

Blackstone's private equity group returned $403 million to investors last quarter, compared to $109 million in new investments (plus another $1.2 billion committed, but not actually deployed). The value of its private equity portfolio declined by 4.2% during the quarter, most of which is attributed to declines in valuation for its its publicly-held portfolio companies.

It's worth noting that James is a prominent Democrat, having recently held a fundraising dinner for President Obama in his Park Avenue apartment. James' boss, Blackstone Group CEO Steve Schwarzman, is a Republican who supports Mitt Romney.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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