Jonathan Grey

About that Blackstone Group succession plan

January 31, 2014: 11:38 AM ET
Blackstone's president, Tony James (right), has quietly become almost as powerful as Schwarzman.

Steve Schwarzman (left) and Tony James

Jonathan Grey is next in line. Still.

FORTUNE -- The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that The Blackstone Group (BX) was grooming Jonathan Grey, the 43- year-old head of its booming real estate business, to eventually succeed firm president Tony James. And, in time, to succeed firm founder and CEO Steve Schwarzman.

I'd wager that the WSJ is correct, both on the individual and the timing.

As for Grey, his ascension at Blackstone isn't exactly breaking news. Nearly two years ago, The Financial Times wrote something very close to what the WSJ published yesterday. And, since then, Tony James himself has noted that Grey's success has helped transform Blackstone from a private equity firm that does real estate into a real estate firm that does private equity.

As for the timing, there continue to be widespread speculation -- both inside Blackstone and in private equity circles -- that James would be willing to leave Blackstone if the right offer comes along. Not for another investment job, but rather for something either in government (James was a big Obama supporter) or in the nonprofit world. Some of that talk was heightened last fall, when James said during an interview that "if I felt I could do something good for the world, I might consider that."

For now, however, Blackstone's succession plan remains just that. A plan. Kind of like it was two years ago. What we've learned this week isn't so much something new, so much as that nothing's changed.

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