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Peterson's official portrait as Commerce Secretary
Peter George Peterson (born June 5, 1926) is an American businessman, investment banker, fiscal conservative, author, and politician whose most prominent political position was as United States Secretary of Commerce from February 29, 1972, to February 1, 1973 under Richard Nixon. He was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations until retiring on June 30, 2007, after being named chairman emeritus. He is the Senior Chairman of the private equity firm, the Blackstone Group. In 2008, he was ranked 149th on the "Forbes 400 Richest Americans" with a net worth of $2.8 Billion. In 2008, he established The Peter G. Peterson Foundation with a $1 billion endowment.

Life and career

Peterson was born in Kearney, Nebraskamarker, to Greekmarker immigrant parents. His father opened and ran a diner in 1923 after changing his name from Georgios Petropoulos to George Peterson. He is married to Joan Ganz Cooney, a creator of Sesame Street, who was unable to have children of her own, became a stepmother to Peterson's five children. In his autobiography he recalls his business and private life in which he blames himself for the failure of two of his three marriages but is now proud of having at last grown close to his children and grandchildren, one grandchild being the infamous Peter Cary "PC" Peterson from Bravo TV's reality series, NYC Prep.


Peterson reached draft age in June 1944, but avoided military service in World War II and in the Korean War. He received an undergraduate degree from Northwestern Universitymarker, graduating in 1947, summa cum laude. He joined Market Facts, a Chicago-based market research firm, in 1948. In 1951, he received an MBA degree from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, before returning to Market Facts as an executive vice president.


He joined advertising agency McCann Erickson in 1953, again in Chicago, where he served as a director. He joined movie-equipment maker Bell and Howell Corporation in 1958 as Executive Vice President. He later succeeded Charles H. Percy as Chairman and CEO, positions he held from 1963 to 1971. He has been a director of a number of other corporations.

In 1969, Peterson was invited by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller 3rd, CFR Chairman John J. McCloy, and former Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon to chair a Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy, which became known as the Peterson Commission. Among its recommendations adopted by the government were that foundations be required annually to disburse a minimum proportion of their funds.

In 1971, Peterson was named Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs by U.S. President Richard Nixon. In 1972, he became the Secretary of Commerce, a position he held for one year. At that time he also assumed the Chairmanship of President Nixon’s National Commission on Productivity and was appointed U.S. Chairman of the U.S.–Soviet Commercial Commission.

Peterson was Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers (1973–1977) and Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc. (1977–1984).

In 1985, Peter G Peterson co-founded the prominent private equity and investment management firm, the Blackstone Group, for which his current position is Senior Chairman.

In 1992, Peterson was one of the co-founders of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan citizens' group that advocates reduction of the federal budget deficit. Following record deficits under President George W. Bush, Peterson commented in 2004: "I remain a Republican, but the Republicans have become a far more theological, faith-directed party, not troubling with evidence."

In February 1994, President Bill Clinton named Peterson as a member of the Bi-Partisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform co-chaired by Senators Bob Kerrey and John Danforth.

Peterson also serves as Co-Chair of The Conference Board Commission on Public Trust and Private Enterprises (Co-Chaired by John Snow).

Peterson has been Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations since 1985, when he took over from David Rockefeller. He also serves as Trustee of the Rockefeller family's Japan Society and of the Museum of Modern Artmarker, and was previously on the board of Rockefeller Center Properties, Inc..

He is founding Chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (formerly the Institute for International Economics, renamed in his honour in 2006), and a Trustee of the Committee for Economic Development. He was also Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New Yorkmarker between 2000 and 2004.

The author of several books on the dangers of the national debt to the American economy, in 2008 Peterson organized an effort to build grass-roots support for cuts to the federal budget based on middle and upper-income Americans giving up government benefits. His foundationproduced a documentary called "I.O.U.S.A" and did outreach to the 2008 presidential candidates.


In 2006 Peterson was honored with the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholarsmarker of the Smithsonian Institutionmarker.



  • Facing Up: How to Rescue the Economy from Crushing Debt and Restore the American Dream. Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 8, 1993). ISBN 978-0671796426
  • Will America Grow up Before it Grows Old: How the Coming Social Security Crisis Threatens You, Your Family and Your Country. Random House; 1 edition (October 8, 1996). ISBN 978-0679452560
  • Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America—and the World. Three Rivers Press (September 26, 2000). ISBN 978-0812990690
  • On Borrowed Time: How the Growth in Entitlement Spending Threatens America's Future with Neil Howe. Transaction Publishers (May 1, 2004). ISBN 978-0765805751
  • Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It. Picador (June 16, 2005). ISBN 978-0312424626
  • The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street, and Beyond. Twelve (June 8, 2009). ISBN 978-0446556033

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