Business

First Black-Owned Mutual Fund Secures $200 Million to Launch ‘Project Black’


Ariel Investments, the first black-owned mutual fund firm in the nation, announced the launch of  Ariel Alternatives and the Project Black initiative.

The firm is stepping into the private fund business with a $200 million commitment from JPMorgan Chase. Led by Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson and global investment manager Leslie A Brun, the fund seeks to invest and scale minority-owned businesses to close the racial wealth gap.

“It is no secret that the racial wealth gap in America continues to widen, day by day, says Brun in a release. “While we have been encouraged and inspired by the supply chain diversity commitments recently made by large corporations, we believe that it is time to accelerate these promises with real, measurable steps. Our work will aim to bring operational excellence, financial resources, minority ownership, and leadership to these companies.”

Introducing Ariel Alternatives ‘Project Black’ Initiative

Founded in 1983 by John W. Rogers, Jr., Ariel Investments has grown to manage $15 billion in assets by leveraging a patient investment philosophy. Now, the company is embarking on a new journey through the establishment of its private asset management firm, Ariel Alternatives.

The firms’ first mission: Project Black. The goal is to invest and scale minority-owned businesses that can become leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies. The project will focus on suppliers to various industries, including transportation, technology manufacturing, and media and marketing,

Project Black Vision

According to a release, Project Black will invest in middle-market companies that are not currently minority-owned. The entities will be transformed into certified minority business enterprises, as well as existing Black and Latinx-owned businesses. The team hopes that Project Black will “forge a new class of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs” and support supply chain diversity goals.

These goals will have a trickle-down effect, boosting economic activity, increasing jobs, and providing access to opportunities for underrepresented populations at all levels.  Ultimately, the project will play an instrumental role in closing the racial wealth gap.

“Through Project Black, we plan to ultimately disperse opportunity throughout underrepresented communities. We want to change the narrative and foster true action and demonstrable change,” says Ariel’s co-CEO Mellody Hobson, in the release.

JPMorgan Chase Provides Initial Funding

According to the Chicago Tribune, Project Black was born from a conversation between JPMorgan CEO and Hobson. In 2018, JPMorgan Chase elected Hobson to its board of directors. Dimon and Hobson discussed ways to promote minority-owned businesses and the new fund was created.

JPMorgan is supporting the efforts of Project Black by providing $200 million in initial funding. This investment is part of the firm’s goals to advance racial equity. In October, the firm announced a $30 billion commitment. Over the next five years, this capital will provide economic opportunities to underserved communities.

“Systemic racism is a tragic part of America’s history,” said Dimon in a statement. “We can do more and do better to break down systems that have propagated racism and widespread economic inequality, especially for Black and Latinx people. It’s long past time that society addresses racial inequities in a more tangible, meaningful way.”




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