How John W. Rogers Jr. Started a $10,000 Business that Now Manages $16.8 Billion Worth of Assets

John W. Rogers Jr. is the founder and CEO of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based corporation. For anyone unfamiliar with Wall Street’s big hitters, this may be mistaken for another financial entity’s figurehead. However, as of June 2021, John is in head of a firm that oversees an investment portfolio worth more than $16.8 billion.

By any definition, the path of the business magnate qualifies as one of the financial markets’ success stories from an African American community. While many achieve marvels through unique aptitude or the circumstances in which they grew up, John attributes his market success to his father.

Many parents’ default on special occasions is to lavish their children with gifts in order to spice up their early childhood memories with love and attention. However, John’s father chose to instill in his son a love of investing by giving him stocks for his birthdays and Christmas instead of toys. From the age of 12, John’s interest in investing became a joyful culture for him; dividend updates were emailed to him, and he enjoyed examining annual and quarterly reports.

His father went one step farther and introduced the young John to stockbroker Stacy Adams, one of Chicago’s first African American brokers. After school, instead of watching movies or playing with friends, he spent time learning from Stacy and watching her work on the stocks.

John was born and reared in Chicago’s South Side by notable African American community members. His father, John Rogers Sr., was a World War II soldier who served as a Tuskegee pilot and eventually became a county judge. He participated in over 100 combat missions. John’s mother was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School, as well as a significant lawyer and Republican political figure.

He attended Princeton University, where he studied economics and played basketball for Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril. His time at Princeton fuelled his interest in investment management, but he learned a key financial lesson while captaining his school’s basketball team. His coach emphasized the significance of teamwork, which influenced his outlook on entrepreneurship and investing.

When he graduated from Princeton in 1980, Stacy assisted him in obtaining a stockbroker position with William Blair & Company. In 1983, after obtaining complete expertise in trading, investment banking, and mutual funds, John decided to start his own business. Against the advice of his industry peers and previous boss, he started Ariel Investments with $10,000 and grew it to more than a billion dollars in two decades.

His idea is straightforward: everyone must run his race while remaining focused on values. After that, one would be successful. Ariel Investments’ assets are currently valued at $16.8 billion.

John is a board member of many profitable corporations, including McDonald’s, Nike, and the New York Times, in addition to being the founder of the billion-dollar investment firm. He was also the 2008 recipient of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Award, which is given to alumni who have achieved outstanding success in their field.

Following President Barack Obama’s election, John co-chaired the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee, and he just joined the Board of Directors of the Barack Obama Foundation.

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