Ariel Investments, the largest Black owned mutual fund, is launching a private investment firm, Ariel Alternatives, which will initially focus on funding and scaling minority-owned businesses. The move into private investments is a first in the company’s 38 year history.
Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson along with Leslie Brun are the co-founders of Ariel Alternatives. Mr. Brun, an Ariel board member and founder of the investment firm, Hamilton Lane, will be its chairman and CEO and will lead the first initiative of Ariel Alternatives called “Project Black.”
The new fund, which has secured $200 million in initial funding from JPMorgan Chase, plans to invest in minority owned businesses and non minority owned businesses that will serve as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies.
The firm plans to infuse the non minority owned businesses with the capital and minority executive talent needed to qualify as a certified minority business. In order to qualify as a certified minority business, suppliers must be at least 51% minority owned, managed, and controlled, according to standards established by the National Minority Supplier Development Council.
According to Brun, Project Black aims to fill a massive diversity gap in the corporate America supply chain. Fortune 500 companies spend about 2% annually on minority-owned suppliers, well short of the 10% to 15% spending goals many corporations set last year.
Despite “announcements and pronouncements” by corporations about increasing the amount they spend with minority-owned suppliers, many have difficulty finding those with enough capacity to meet their needs, Brun said.
“We’re intending to create those minority suppliers of scale, in concert with our Fortune 500 relationships, to provide the solution to their issue, as well as create the opportunity for us to then leverage that into the social impact initiatives that we have,” he aded.
According to a release announcing the fund, “Project Black will forge a new class of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. The initiative will seek to position these companies as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies — supporting supply chain diversity.”
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