In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Magic Johnson, the retired basketball legend, was asked whether he was investing $1 billion into urban neighborhood real estate development to make money or genuinely help the minorities. His answer was straightforward: He said he was trying to do both.
“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is absolutely possible to contribute to community development and continue to profit.
The following 9 African-American commercial realtors and multi-millionaires are changing lives for the better around the country while still inching closer to dollar billionaire status with each day.
1. Roy Donahue “Don” Peebles, 55, $700+ Million
Who:Don Peebles is a successful real estate developer, philanthropist, author, and political activist. He is the Founder and CEO of Peebles Corporation, the largest and most successful African-American owned commercial real estate company in America right now.
Don Peebles was born to a mechanic father in the then humble Petworth neighborhood in DC. By high school years, he was already working as a page on Capitol Hill, and by age 24 was appointed to head the real estate tax appeals board. He consistently says that he looks for development opportunities that transform women and minority communities’ lives for better.
Peebles dropped out of a 2009 bid for D.C. mayor to support his wife whose mother got diagnosed with cancer. He and his wife, Katrina, have gone on to work with and support foundations such as the Women’s Cancer League, Cancer Link, Recreation Wish List, Miami Children’s Hospital Auxiliary Board, Honey Shine, and United Way.
2. Sheila Crump Johnson, 66, $700+ Million
Sheila Johnson is the powerhouse CEO of the 340 acre Salamander Hotels and Resorts in Middleburg, VA. The group boasts a portfolio of six premium hotels in Florida, D.C. and South Carolina. You’ll best remember her for becoming the first-ever female billionaire in America in 2000.
Having co-founded the Black Entertainment Television (BET), with then-husband Robert Johnson in 1979, she reaped a splendid $1.5 billion in 2000 after selling the African-American oriented TV channel to Viacom for an incredible $3 billion.
Sheila is a big believer in giving value. In 2006, when she was CARE global ambassador, she helped raise over $8 million to champion the “I Am Powerful” campaign, a women’s fight against poverty. She continues to champion this in other ways.
3. Robert “Bob” Johnson, 69,$550 Million
He is a successful African-American realtor, media mogul, and philanthropist.
Bob Johnson, like former sweetheart Sheila above, became the first-ever African-American billionaire by selling BET to Viacom for $3 billion and earning a 50% cut.
He used the staggering cash flow to finding The RLJ Companies, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2004. The group is quite diverse and expansive interests in hotels development, asset management, VLT gaming, sports, and entertainment. Among those includes the RLJ Lodging Trust, one of largest publicly traded REITs in America right now.
In 2007, he created a $30 million fund to provide Liberian entrepreneurs with credit. That is before helping raise funds in 2012 for Malaria No More campaign. He’s also worked with Morgan Freeman to fund hurricane preparedness in the Bahamas.
4. Earvin Magic Johnson, 56, $500 Million
After playing as the point guard for the LA Lakers in the NBA, Magic Johnson retired from professional basketball with a fortune, even by today’s standards. Through smart business acumen, he’s been able to leverage his legendary play days to dunk huge deals to amass a personal net worth north of half a billion dollars.
The two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame is a real estate magnate, philanthropist, broadcaster and motivational speaker.
Magic announced he’d contracted HIV/AIDS before retiring abruptly (first time). He’s gone on to campaign for safe sex and currently works with multiple drives against HIV/AIDS through his Magic Johnson Foundation, which also offers academic scholarships to the deserving needy and minorities. He raised over $1 billion in 2008 to invest in transforming urban neighborhoods.
5. Quintin Primo III, 60, $300+ Million
Quintin is the Co-Founder of Capri Investment Group and philanthropist. The conglomerate is a major asset and debt investor in the US right now and currently has over $3.8 billion worth of assets in its care.
He’s led the company since inception in 1992 and projects it to double in real estate assets within the next 15 months. Quintin believes it’s time to invest in Africa, saying it is about time investors stopped discriminating against the continent despite potential good returns on investment.
He helps transition homeless women and children in Chicago’s Westside by greatly supporting the Primo Center for Women and Children. His post on the board of All Chicago also helps him and his wife, Diane, to champion other causes in the area.
6. Kenneth Fearn, 50, $285+ Million
Kenneth rose from the streets of South Central L.A. to found Integrated Capital LLC in 2004. He has since grown its portfolio of real estate deals to over $2 billion as the Managing Partner.
He is also currently an “Entrepreneur in Residence” at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. That, after earning an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Fearn has been on record saying he owes his success to building relationships, and that he takes opportunities to give back to society as they come. He has chaired both the Young Presidents Organization and City of Los Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Agency.
As a current board member of both the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation (Vegas) and Challengers Boys and Girls Club (L.A.), Fearn continues to impact positivity in the lives of American youth, hence investing in their future.
7. Victor MacFarlane, 65, N/A
MacFarlane founded real estate conglomerate, MacFarlane Partners in 1987. He has served as the Managing Principal since despite losing big in the recent recession. Before then, MacFarlane Partners held over $20 billion in assets and debt investment and management. The firm currently manages over $6 billion worth of ongoing and completed properties and over $2.2 billion in investor equity.
The San Francisco-based firm was and still is the largest minority-owned real estate investment umbrella in the country as it is funded by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Even after losing $1 billion of taxpayers’ money in the recession slump.
By investing, with Magic Johnson, in urban improvement projects (which other real estate investors shunned as low return), MacFarlane demonstrated great belief in the minority and their capability, willingness and desire to improve their living conditions. He views the redevelopment project as a calling.
8. Maurice “Mo” Vaughn, 48, $60+ Million
Similar to Magic Johnson, Mo retired from professional baseball after 12 exemplary years and has since constructed over 12,000 affordable housing units in minority communities around the nation.
Through working with his 500 employees of OMNI New York, Mo is determined to continue developing affordable housing for the minorities, stating explicitly that that is “our niche”.
Mo earned the 1995 A. Bartlett Garmatti Award for Community Service, and for good reason. He has donated significantly towards minority interests including academic sponsorship in partnership with other foundations such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation and helped multiple Boys and Girls clubs.
9. Emmitt Smith, 46, $26 Million
Smith is a Super Bowl Champion and NFL Hall of Famer who retired from the gridiron in 2004 to construct more than 4,461 affordable houses for the minority across the nation. His other realtor company, ESmith Legacy in Dallas, is wholly minority-owned.
He has been active in Northern Texas supporting tutoring and leadership training through his academics-centric foundation, Pat & Emmit Smith Charities.
What these 9 commercial real estate tycoons are doing, clearly demonstrates how to give back to society.