An increasing number of consumers are beginning to look for Black-owned businesses that they can support. But what happens if you think a company is Black-owned, but in reality, it isn’t? Of course the Black community can reap tremendous economic benefit by recycling more dollars within our own community. But it seems some companies want to re-direct conscious consumers by appearing to be Black-owned. Let the buyer beware.
- Remember when Justine Sacco, sent out the infamous tweet “going to africa, hope I don’t get aids. just kidding, I’m white”? Who knew that she worked for media company IAC, which owns the website BlackPeopleMeet.com? Oh yeah, Barry Diller is IAC Chairman and CEO.
Hallmark Cards, headquartered in Kansas City, MO is the owner of the Mahogany line of cards. It was initially introduced as a limited 16-card promotion back in 1987, and didn’t include the Hallmark brand on the card. It became a permanent line in 1991 and in 2005 they added “Sister to Sister” and “DaySpring” to the Mahogany Line. Oh, and they put the Hallmark logo on the back. It’s now the largest brand of cards centered on the African American culture.
In February 2014 Emmis Communications purchased the iconic WBLS-FM radio station in New York City (has the largest number of Black residents in the US). “Today’s announcement is indicative of our belief in the US radio industry and our desire to increase our footprint in the nation’s largest market,” said Jeff Smulyan, President & CEO of Emmis Communications.
Black Expressions Book Club is owned by private equity firm Najafi Companies, whose founder and CEO is Jahm Najafi. The company is under an affiliate named Bookspan, which Najafi Companies acquired in 2008. Bookspan launched Black Expressions Book Club in the fall of 1999, and was expecting an initial 5,000 applications — it received 15,000. The club later grew to over 460,000 members.
FUBU (“For Us By Us”) – You ever hear of Samsung C&T America (SCTA)? Yep, TV’s, mobile phones, that one. They also have a fashion division. In 1995, SCTA (Samsung) first invested in FUBU® (providing the company with production and distribution capabilities). The financial and strategic partnership helped cement FUBU as one of the world’s fastest-growing apparel and footwear brands. The company dominated the urban hip-hop apparel market.
Soft Sheen Products of Chicago is owned by L’Oreal of France. Brands you may recognize include Wave Nouveau, Magic Shave, Optimum, Mazoni, Roots of Nature, Dark & Lovely and more. At the time of the acquisition Soft Sheen was the largest Afro owned hair care firm in the world, with assets well over $85 million. The acquisition was the largest one of its kind ever recorded and put L’Oreal in the Afro Hair Care market big time.
Many were stunned when BET was sold to Viacom for $3.3 billion in 2000. But a little more than five year later, the founder of Essence Communications, Ed Lewis, decided to sell the nation’s second largest Black magazine to Time Warner. The publication had been a part of the Black-owned community for 35 years. Lewis was criticized for not reaching out to Black suitors like Earl Graves of Black Enterprise.
- New York’s first African-American targeted station offering an urban gospel format is no longer Black-owned. Emmis Communications acquired the station along with New York’s WBLS 107.5 FM. In a statement, Jeff Smulyan, President & CEO of Emmis Communications said “..it is with great pride we take the helm of these iconic stations.” Emmis expects to realize approximately $3 million of annual expense savings by combining these stations with HOT 97 in New York.
Africa is hot again in virtually every business category. Tourism, mining, financial markets, mobile technology, film and video, are all booming with activity. You can read all about it on a website created by Jaco Maritz, whose interest in Africa’s business environment started when he took on the editor position at a Nigerian business publication.
TV One is not technically Black-owned since it is a publicly traded company. However it is the closest thing to a Black-owned cable channel that Comcast has on its basic cable platform. Radio One owns approximately 51.1% of the controlling ownership, and TV One is an “African-American targeted cable television network“.