This is our second week on business pioneer’s and future Blue Chip Companies to watch.
Reginald F. Lewis born December 7, 1942 in Baltimore, MD, was an American business pioneer, who was one of the most successful business leaders during the 1980s. He was the richest African American man in the 1980's. Lewis grew up in a middle class neighborhood. He won a football scholarship to Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), graduating with a degree in economics in 1965 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1968.
Recruited to top New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP immediately after law school, Lewis left to start his own firm two years later. After 15 years as a corporate lawyer with his own practice, Lewis moved to the other side of the table by creating TLC Group L.P., a venture capital firm, in 1983.
His first major deal was the purchase of the McCall Pattern Company, a home sewing pattern business for $22.5 million. Lewis learned from a Fortune Magazine article that one of the Norton Simon companies that Esmark planned to divest was McCall Pattern Company, a maker of home sewing patterns founded in 1870. With fewer and fewer people sewing at home, McCall was seemingly on the decline—though it had posted profits of $6 million in 1983 on sales of $51.9 million. At the time, McCall was number two in its industry, holding 29.7 percent of the market, compared to industry leader Simplicity Patterns with 39.4 percent.
He managed to negotiate the price down and then raised $1 million dollars himself from family and friends and borrowed the rest from institutional investors and investment banking firm First Boston Corp. Within one year, he turned the company around by freeing up capital tied in fixed assets such as building and machinery, finding a new use for machinery during downtime by manufacturing greeting cards, and he then started to recruit managers from rival companies. By containing costs, improving quality, beginning to export to China, emphasizing new product introductions. This combination led to the company's most profitable year in its history. With the addition of McCall real estate worth an estimated $6 million that they retained ownership of, he later sold the company at a tremendous profit for investors a 90-1 return. Lewis's share was 81.7 percent of the $90 million.
In 1987 Lewis bought Beatrice International Foods from Beatrice Companies for $985 million, renaming it TLC Beatrice International, a snack food, beverage, and grocery store conglomerate that was the largest African-American owned and managed business in the U.S. The deal was partly financed through Mike Milken of the maverick investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert. In order to reduce the amount needed to finance the LBO, Lewis came up with a plan to sell off some of the division's assets simultaneous with the takeover.
When TLC Beatrice reported revenue of $1.8 billion in 1987, it became the first black-owned company to have more than $1 billion in annual sales. At its peak in 1996, TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. had sales of $2.2 billion and was number 512 on Fortune magazine's list of 1,000 largest companies.
In 1992, Forbes Magazine listed Lewis among the 400 richest Americans with a net worth estimated at $400 million. He also was the first African American to build a billion dollar company. Lewis died at age 50, from brain cancer. Despite the notoriety surrounding Lewis's financial coups, little has been written about the life of this remarkable man. Based on Lewis's unfinished autobiography, as well as scores of interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, the book, "Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?”, is the inspiring story of Reginald Lewis: lawyer, Wall Street wizard, philanthropist -- and the wealthiest black man in American history. It cuts through the myth and media hype to reveal the man behind the legend. What emerges is a vivid portrait of a proud, fiercely determined individual with a razor-sharp tongue -- and an intellect to match -- who would settle for nothing less than excellence from himself and others. When six-year-old Reginald Lewis overheard his grandparents discussing employment discrimination against African Americans, he asked, "Why should white guys have all the fun?"
This week’s Future Mogul Blue Chip Company to keep your eyes out for isn’t white or a guy; however, she is having BIG FUN. Co-founder and President, Lynne Rene (LR) formed www.royaltymedia.net in December 2006. She shares with Lil Mogul (LM) her view on being an entrepreneur in 2010, rates President Obama’s first term in office and explains why your Brand is so important in business.
LM: What’s your Zodiac Sign?
LR: I am 100% a textbook Libra.
LM: Where were you born?
LR: Columbia, South Carolina
LM: Where do you currently live?
LR: Uptown in Hamilton Heights in Harlem, USA
LM: Where did you go to college?
LR: The College of Charleston, Charleston, SC
LM: What do you do (career or claim to FAME)?
LR: I like to term myself as a renaissance woman, because I wear as many hats as I can. I am currently an Event Director for Royalty Media Group, makeup artist, and an actress. Often I am asked what my passion is and I love living life and experiencing all that the God has created for me.
LM: How did you get started in your new found career or industry?
LR: It actually found me, not to sound uneventful. But, I moved to NYC in 2006 with the intent on becoming an actress, and ended up starting Royalty Media Group with my childhood best friend Likwuid and it just seems like God placed me where he deemed necessary for me to be.
LM: Do you think entrepreneurship is for everyone and/or important?
LR: What a great question! I love entrepreneurship. It is the foundation of creativity and career freedom. Whether or not it is for everyone depends solely on the individual! I believe in no limitations in life. But, one must keep in mind that you have to have a high tolerance against the word no, and you must acquire a tough skin. You have to keep in mind entrepreneurship is a highly independent career move, and it is a personal declaration of non conformity so get ready for resistance.
LM: What was one of your highlights as an entrepreneur or during your career path?
LR: When I got removed from corporate America and I began devoting all my energy, passion, to Royalty Media Group and Lynne Rene. That was the highlight of my career and LIFE!!!
LM: What would you share with other getting started as an entrepreneur or on their career path?
LR: Resiliency is the key. Have the strength to go for what you want, because it will not be easy. Also, reality is important to in entrepreneurship because at first you may have to work for years, without seeing much of a financial return. But, you have to keep your eyes on the prize. Freedom is priceless!
LM: If you can TELL the community to AWAKE UP – What should they be aware of?
LR: Never place success, money, or someone else before you! You are, and should be your number one FAN! No one will ever love you the way you can.
LM: What is your ultimate 10 year plan for The Future?
LR: In ten years, I want Royalty to at the fore front of black entertainment for women and minorities. Additionally I want to be doing more acting as well.
LM: What motto do you live by?
LR: Be real, or be nothing.
LM: President Obama has completed 1 year in office what do you think about this performance?
LR: I think he has done incredibly, but I wish the press, media, and the United States would be more understanding and realize that this man has entered office after George W. Bush who...well you know.
LM: Have you seen a Change?
LR: I have seen a change. From sloppy to a little more uniformity. But, our country is so askew right now that we will not view a full change until a decade from now.
LM: How powerful is the media in 2010?
LR: Media has reached a new level in 2010. It is present everywhere more than ever, visually, audibly. The net is becoming a beast, in that folks are positively and negatively impact online media. Recently, I have noticed it is becoming a device of the weak, because now more than ever the common coward Joe is sitting at home in front of his laptop and he can voice all his opinions with a cloak of anonymity because he blogs under a pseudonym. Everyone has a voice now a days and they use it unapologetically to say things that are not socially acceptable out in the open or at the dinner table. An often time this is casts a shadow on actual online journalism and calls for online journalists to work harder to convey the true art of online media.
LM: How would you describe the word BRAND? Is it important to have, to make BIG money? LR: Brand is what makes one recognizable to the world. It is a huge facet of identity for an entity. Big Money is important but it means nothing if one is not happy. So, I think happiness trumps money any day.