The Business Trailblazers and Titans of Black America

The 40 most powerful African Americans in business-and how they shaped our world

Percy Sutton

10. Percy Sutton
The Godfather of Black Radio

The late politician, Tuskegee Airman, and civil rights activist purchased a single radio station in New York City in 1972 for $1.9 million and grew it into media conglomerate Inner City Broadcasting. His model of R&B, talk radio, and community service would be replicated nationwide. After saving the famed Apollo Theater in 1981, his company produced the hit, Showtime at the Apollo.

9. Russell Simmons
The Man Who Took Hip-Hop Mainstream
Simmons didn’t just open a business when he created Rush Communications, he gave birth to the multibillion-dollar hip-hop economy. Through his Def Jam unit, he produced music, comedy shows, and motion pictures while Phat Fashions L.L.C. ignited the billion-dollar urban attire industry. He served as mentor to a generation of entrepreneurs in the entertainment and fashion industries.

8. Michael Lee-Chin
The Billionaire Investor
Founder and chairman of Portland Holdings Inc., a privately held investment company in Burlington, Ontario, Jamaican-born Lee-Chin started investing at age 32 and used the proceeds to acquire AIC Limited, which he grew from $1 million in assets to $15 billion. The billionaire has shared his value-investing principles with investors around the globe.

7. Richard Parsons
The Chief Strategist
Parsons has been a transformative figure in corporate America. As CEO of Dime Savings Bank in the 1990s, he turned the thrift into the nation’s fourth largest. By 1995 he was tapped to become president of Time Warner and six years later became CEO of AOL Time Warner. He continues to wield global influence as chairman of Citigroup.

6. Oprah Winfrey
The Media Powerhouse
Winfrey is among the shrewdest of entrepreneurs as well as one of the most ubiquitous brands, influencing the buying decisions of millions worldwide. Since 1986, she has transformed Harpo Inc. into a multimedia conglomerate that has footprints in television, print, radio, and film. As a result, this dynamo represents one of the few black billionaires in America.

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