In Memoriam: Peter G. Peterson


Japan Society mourns the passing of The Honorable Peter G. Peterson, a long-time and instrumental Board member since 1982. A cornerstone figure in international relations throughout his career in the public and private sectors, Mr. Peterson appeared as a keynote speaker for our Annual Dinner in 1972, while he was U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and helped steer many successful programs after joining our Board. Mr. Peterson became Japan Society’s Life Director in 2005 and received the Japan Society Award in 2009.

Mr. Peterson became known to many Americans first in 1971, when President Nixon recognized in him a unique aptitude for international economic diplomacy and tapped him to become Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs, before naming him Secretary of Commerce in 1972.

During Mr. Peterson's days in the White House, he frequently engaged in economic diplomacy for Japanese businesses, recognizing the need to bring U.S. and Japanese business leaders and policy-makers together in the early days of bilateral trade friction. He facilitated White House trade meetings with Japanese CEO’s, among them Sony Founder Akio Morita. Mr. Peterson continued his relationship with Mr. Morita and Sony long after he left Washington DC, and in 1992, Mr. Peterson joined Sony’s board as the first American not employed by Sony to serve as a board member.

After Mr. Peterson left the White House in the early 1970s, he pursued interests in banking and finance — as the Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc., and finally as Co-Founder of Blackstone Group in 1985. While he left public service in 1973, he never abandoned his desire to contribute to the public discourse.

Through his founding roles in the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Concord Coalition, and his deep and long-standing involvement with the Council on Foreign Relations — serving as chairman for 22 years — Mr. Peterson committed himself to furthering the debate on fiscal conservatism, entitlement reform, and improving accountability in the political system.

In 2008, he committed the majority of his share of the proceeds from Blackstone Group’s public offering in 2007 to founding the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, through which he hoped to target “undeniable, unsustainable and untouchable” threats to the nation’s future and advocate for the unrepresented interests of the next generation.

Our gratitude is immeasurable for all he brought to the Society. Our deepest condolences go to his family and friends.

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