The expansion of civil rights to silver rights has led to record breaking performances of many Black American entrepreneurs. The community has a rich history of successful entrepreneurship, with numerous Black entrepreneurs selling their businesses to major U.S. corporations for significant sums.
Here is the most recent list showcasing ten of the highest black business exits who, over the past two decades, made history. These ten black entrepreneurs serve as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere. They have shown a remarkable ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities. What stands out is their drive, determination, and willingness to take risks, which are all key characteristics of successful entrepreneurship. They especially prove that anything is possible and that black entrepreneurship is alive and thriving.
01. Robert L. Johnson – BET – $3 Billion
Robert L. Johnson is a trailblazer in the world of business, having co-founded Black Entertainment Television (BET) with his wife Sheila in 1979. BET was the first Black-owned company listed on the NYSE and Johnson became the first African American billionaire following its sale to Viacom in 2001. He has continued to be a successful businessman, political figure, and philanthropist
02. Dr. Dre – Beats Electronics – $2.6 Billion
Dr. Dre (featured image), born Andre Romelle Young, has built a massive empire as a rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. In 2008, he teamed up with Jimmy Iovine to launch Beats Electronics, which was eventually purchased by Apple for $3 billion in 2014. The deal gave Dr. Dre and Iovine $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in stock options, with the latter worth $700 million by 2018.
03. Richelieu Dennis – Sundial Brands – $1.6 Billion
Richelieu Dennis’s wealth and success are rooted in Sundial Brands, a hair and skincare company that he and his mother founded in 1991. Inspired by his grandmother’s beauty formula, Dennis helped grow the brand into a leading provider of products for women of color. In 2018, Sundial Brands was sold to Unilever for $1.6 billion, with Dennis pocketing an estimated $850 million.
04. Bill Spruill – Global Data Consortium – $300 Million
The newest entry on the list is Bill Spruill is a trailblazer in the tech industry and a co-founder of Global Data Consortium. In 2022, the company was acquired for a staggering $300 million, solidifying Spruill’s reputation as a successful entrepreneur and business leader. Spruill’s expertise in data management and analysis was a key factor in the success of Global Data Consortium, which provided businesses with data-driven insights to help them make informed decisions. Six months after the exit, Spruill announced a new family venture, continuing his legacy as a leader in the tech industry and a visionary entrepreneur.
05. Jay-Z – Rocawear – $204 Million
Jay-Z, also known as Shawn Carter, is a business genius and influential figure in the urban community. He founded Rocawear, an urban clothing brand, in 1999, and sold it to Iconix Brand Group in 2007 for $204 million. He continues to lead the brand’s licensing, marketing, and product development efforts.
06. Andre Swanston – Tru Optik – $150 Million
Andre Swanston’s background in private wealth management prepared him well for the business world. In 2013, he co-founded Tru Optik, a data marketplace that provides streaming services with targeted consumer information. Swanston took the risk in this space when other entrepreneurs wouldn’t; and as a result is among the youngest on the top ten list. The company was purchased by TransUnion, the third-largest credit reporting agency in the U.S., for $150 million in 2020. Where he went onto serve as Senior VP of Media and Entertainment before going on to invest in other businesses of color.
07. Russell Simmons – Phat Fashions – $140 Million
Russell Simmons is a multi-talented Black entrepreneur, record executive, filmmaker, writer, and dealmaker. In 1992, he launched Phat Fashions, a clothing line inspired by classic designers like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. The line eventually grew into a lifestyle brand and was sold to the Kellwood Company in 2004 for $140 million.
08. George Foreman – Foreman Grill – $137 Million
George Foreman, a two-time world heavyweight boxing champion, Gospel Minister, and entrepreneur, made a significant fortune through his endorsement of the Foreman Grill. In 1999, he sold his name and likeness to Salton Inc., a housewares company, for $137.5 million. This included $113.75 million paid in five annual installments and $23.75 million in Salton stock issued in the first quarter of 2000.
09. Comer Cottrell – Pro-Line – $75-80 Million
Comer Cottrell was an entrepreneur who revolutionized the beauty industry with his co-founded company, Pro-Line. He became famous for creating the Curly Kit in 1979, a product that transformed the black cosmetics market with its innovative Jheri curl formula. In its first year of launch, the Curly Kit boosted Pro-Line’s sales from $1 million to over $10 million. Cottrell later became the sole owner of the company after buying out his partners, and in 2000, sold Pro-Line to Alberto Culver for a sum of $75 to $80 million.
10. Oprah Winfrey – Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) – $70 Million
Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul who has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Her joint venture with Discovery and Harpo, Inc, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), is a testament to her business acumen. Recently, Discovery Communications has acquired an additional 24.5% stake in OWN by paying $70 million to Winfrey’s Harpo, Inc. This transaction has increased Discovery’s ownership of OWN to more than 70%.
By learning from these examples, black entrepreneurs everywhere can make the list themselves and continue to drive economic progress in their communities.
About the Author:
Neil Foote is a versatile media professional who excels as a collaborator, connector, strategist and journalist. He has extensive experience in print, broadcast, and digital media. Throughout his career, Foote has served as a newspaper reporter for The Miami Herald and The Washington Post, a newspaper industry executive at the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and an internet strategist at The Dallas Morning News, Belo Corporation, and Tom Joyner. He has a long association with Tom Joyner, having worked with the famous radio show host for over two decades. Foote also served as the President of the National Black Public Relations Society and was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. Currently, he is an assistant professor at the University of North Texas’ Department of Journalism.