Private-Equity Firms Seek to Expand Influence in Obama Era

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With the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first black president of the U.S. a day away, the historic occasion has been celebrated through a countless number of festive activities throughout the nation’s capital. But Sunday night’s Private-Equity Inaugural Gala attracted scores of BE 100s CEOs, heavyweight minority executives, and high-powered politicians to network and discuss business strategy as the Champagne and revelry flowed.

“This a time of great possibilities and great responsibilities. We can create great wealth or watch the nation slide into great despair,” N. Joseph Watson, one of the event’s hosts and chairman of the Marathon Club, a minority business development group, told the attendees in the ballroom at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. “We must step up and be a part of the solution.”

Watson said that although the Obama Era is one in which the new administration must heal an ailing economy, it also represents a period in which top minority financiers must take the lead the development of new businesses. Terry Jones, the event’s co-chairman and CEO of BE 100s private equity firm SYNCOM, said: “There’s billions of dollars in the room and the firms represented here are looking to put their money with the right people. [Black entrepreneurs] need to know the people in this room.”

The creation of mutually beneficial relationships and strengthening business coalitions was one of the core objectives of the gathering. Under the theme “Pathway to Minority Wealth Creation,” the event was hosted by the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC), the industry group for minority-focused private-equity firms and the Marathon Club, a consortium that includes NAIC, the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), an organization composed of black corporate leaders, and the New America Alliance, a group that promotes economic advancement in the Latino community.

It was a Who’s Who of the rich and powerful, including JoAnne Price who runs Fairview Capital, one of the leading BE Private Equity Firms; Don Barden, CEO of Barden Companies, the largest black-owned gaming conglomerate, Jon Barfield, CEO of Bartech, another leading BE Industrial/Service company; Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One, the black-owned radio chain; and  Sen. Mark Warner, the freshman from Virginia who was recently named to the Senate Banking and Commerce Committee. Warner said the attendees represented “the new face of business.”

Some say the new president will be more receptive to hearing the concerns of minority entrepreneurs and more inclusive in the development of small business policies.

“Change is on the way,” beamed Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier, who oversees $56 billion in assets, as she addressed the crowd about the change in presidential administrations. ” What’s significant about Obama’s ascension is that we will have a friendly face in the White House. We will see a sea change in an attitude regarding diversity.”

Carl Brooks, chief executive of ELC, maintains that African Americans in corporate America and the financial services sector must drive the minority business agenda. “Barack

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  • Alphonso Lott

    I would like to have some contact numbers to these organizations.

  • Peterr Cabaniss

    I am glad to see that the industrial and financial leaders of our largetst black owned companies are meeting to discuss the sea change that will transpire with an Obama presidency.

    My wish is that they will remember to reach a hand-out to the many struggling young and middle aged business professionals who are still working on achieving their dream. Too many times when the wealthest among us meet, they just strengthen their ties to each other, and their wealth circulates in small circles.

    I ask all of the attendees to look beyond their friends in the room and to take into account those of use who wish to work along their side so that we can help increase the wealth of all.

  • You are so right, the wealthy tends to stick with the wealthy. Well I am wealthy, however it is not in $ as it is with faith.
    I have a great idea to help relieve the one million students dropping out of school each year here in the United States. Those that I have discussed it with say it is a big project and I say it is no bigger than the one addressed in helping children from other countries. It is small compared to the rewards of success for the 120 live-in students it will be addressing.
    The school is named Professionals at Work (Making the Education Connection) It will be composed of two buildings. One building will house the students, and it will also be a hotel, while the other building will rent out suites to small businesses and live in staff, the library, and six transitional rooms for graduating students going to college.The main hotel has 255 rooms of which 80 rooms will be used for the students, renting out 175 to the public, and a restaurant. The students will learn about property management, and all skills related to operating a business, marketing, sales, promotions, housekeeping, serving the public, while applying their educational skills to the daily operation of the business.
    Our youth are being robbed and especially the ones deemed “at risk” of the right to be educated. I believe that this program will give these youth the chance to be a valuable asset to our communities in the years to come and reach back to help those in the position they are in today. We often ask the question: “what is happening to our youth”? Well, as adults, parents, citizens and educators we must address the needs of these youth as our needs were addressed when we were in school. School has become a place of fear and intimidation for a lot of our students and we must change the character of what we expect from them. Children are now stepping into adult roles well before their time and we must change the direction of our society. We can not afford to invest in prisons, we must invest in our children, right here in America.
    Yes, I am looking for investors of tomorrow leaders in our communities, not the prison system. Are you interested in being a part of an innovative program that will give you back your investment 1000 fold? Are you willing to come out of your comfort zone and give someone a helping hand. Don’t just keep your tight little circle open up and let the aspiring contributor in, together a difference can be made if you invest in your own country. Remember this is how we lost a lot of our jobs, outsourcing and calling it extending world trade. Come on back home and invest in the youth of America!

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