Firm News

Blackstone by Example: Peter Koffler and Carl James

The latest installment of our interview series dives into two colleagues’ work across Blackstone Alternative Asset Management (BAAM) and OUT Blackstone, our LGBT+ affinity network.

Our mentorship series features conversations between mentors and mentees across Blackstone to shed light on how we’re building the firm’s next generation of leaders.

Here, Peter Koffler, General Counsel for BAAM, sat down with his mentee and analyst Carl James.

Peter Koffler is General Counsel for the Blackstone Alternative Asset Management (BAAM), and serves as Co-Chair for OUT Blackstone, the firm’s LGBT+ affinity network. He was previously Chief Compliance Officer of Blackstone and Chief Compliance Officer of BAAM. Peter serves as a trustee/director of various public and private funds managed by Blackstone.

Carl James is an Analyst in BAAM, and first started working with Peter in 2014 as his executive support. Carl has also served as the Chair of the OUT Blackstone Task Force since 2018. In addition to his role with OUT Blackstone, Carl currently serves as BAAM’s Diversity Director, co-leading BAAM’s Racial Equity & Inclusion Task Force while working to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and programming within BAAM.

Peter Koffler: Carl and I started working together about seven years ago in BAAM and OUT Blackstone. OUT Blackstone launched in 2015 to raise awareness of challenges impacting LGBT+ individuals, host community events and initiatives, and create a supportive environment for LGBT+ individuals. I know it sounds a little corny but collaborating through the network allowed us to become friends first. I think a big reason why our relationship has worked well is because of that. Carl knows my family and we talk about my kids all the time. Everything after that was easy.

Carl James: I remember one of the first times you said “As your friend…” And I was like, “Peter’s my friend? When did that happen?” You don’t always think of your boss or your manager as your friend.

PK: We have the kind of rapport where we can do that. OUT Blackstone and Carl have taught me that diversity and inclusion need to be more than a catch phrase. Getting to a better place is hard—at times painful—and requires commitment to open and honest conversations. Carl also has been instrumental in guiding me on how to meaningfully contribute to my communities.

CJ: I think there is a large degree of openness and honesty where we don’t feel like we need to hold back with each other. For someone who is junior, you’re looking for your manager to be that person who’s willing to go to bat—not just for you as an individual, but also for issues and causes that matter. That’s a quality that I hope continues to get replicated in other mentor-mentee relationships: that willingness to really sponsor people and ideas that matter.

PK: OUT Blackstone was still in its infancy when Carl and I started working together. Both of us are very committed and proud of it. It’s been very special to be an ally in the network and a great experience for me. It’s an incredibly safe and warm space and I’ve been able to learn so much from my colleagues and friends in this group. While I’m credited with being one of the co-heads, I’m kind of the mentee—I’m really somebody who rides the coattails of people like Carl. That two-way street has allowed our mentor-mentee relationship to take off.

CJ: I was really hesitant, actually, to join OUT Blackstone when it was first starting. I thought, “I have my personal life and that’s where I will express my LGBT-ness. When I come to work, I just do what I do, and then I go home.” One of the reasons why I got involved in the network was seeing Peter’s example and the fact that he was such a champion and a dedicated ally. He set an example by saying that this is something we should all care about, and that really opened my eyes. I couldn’t just say that this was another part of my life. It’s a part of my identity, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be expressing that at work.

Beyond OUT Blackstone, whenever I need a gut check, I know that Peter will always be straight-forward and give me an honest reaction. I trust his judgment implicitly and can always count on him to be the first to raise his hand when I’m reaching out to leaders to support our initiatives.

PK: Carl has been a real culture carrier for the firm. Our collective success can be attributed to treating each other as colleagues and peers, not as admin and partner. We see eye to eye on a lot of issues and have similar goals for BAAM and for the firm. LGBT+ issues are something we’re both passionate about and advancing them together has let us take our work relationship that much further.

Read more about Blackstone’s diversity and inclusion efforts here.