Promoted to global head of private equity at the Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX) in 2012, Joseph Barratta holds one of the biggest jobs in PE today.
After graduating from Georgetown University, Baratta joined Morgan Stanley in the firm's mergers and acquisitions department almost by chance. "I had an offer from Solomon [Smith Barney] already so I wasn't going to go to the Morgan Stanley interview, but my friend had told them about me and they called to meet with me. It was really fate, because I was surprised to even get the job," says Baratta, who had never even been to New York prior to taking the job.
Baratta started with Blackstone in 1998. Prior to joining the firm, and after leaving Morgan Stanley, Baratta worked at New York-based Tinicum Inc. and Foster City, Calif.-based McCowen De Leeuw & Co. While at Tinicum, Baratta was working on a deal with Blackstone and got a chance to interview at the firm. "Low and behold they gave me the job. I started as a first year associate. I moved around a bit before Blackstone and then decided to put my head down and get to work," he says.
Baratta quickly established himself as a go-to person at Blackstone, after, at the age of 30, he co-launched the firm's European investment arm in 2001. "That was a defining moment in my career. I was part of a small team that started our private equity business in Europe," says Baratta.
Baratta distinguished himself while in Europe by doing a deal that he didn't expect to amount to what it did. In 2005, he bought Merlin Entertainment Group, one of Europe's leading visitor attractions companies, for about £100 million. "It was an odd deal that we turned into an $8 billion company. It was an opportunity to build something from scratch that didn't exist and I am proud of it," says Baratta, who went on to buy many more theme park operators and attraction companies. Blackstone is now one of the largest holders of theme park operators in the world.
After the Merlin acquisition, Baratta oversaw the firm's buyouts of Universal Orlando and Seaworld Parks & Entertainment (NYSE: SEAS). Today, he's managing the firm's $16 billion PE fund, which closed in 2012.