Blackstone Inc told its employees on Thursday that Executive Vice Chairman Hamilton “Tony” James, a key contributor to the firm’s rise to become the world’s largest alternative asset manager, will retire. James, who joined Blackstone in 2002 as president and chief operating officer, led the firm’s initial public offering and the acquisitions of its $178 billion credit business, previously known as GSO, as well as its secondaries arm, Strategic Partners. “During his tenure, he helped fundamentally transform and institutionalize the firm,” Blackstone Chief Executive Stephen Schwarzman said in a memo to employees.

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