5. Earl G. Graves Sr.
The Champion of Black Business
As founder and publisher of black enterprise, this quintessential entrepreneur created a vehicle to provide information and advocacy that has enabled three generations of African Americans to build wealth through business ownership, career advancement, and money management. Through his media company, he opened the door for the best and brightest in the global business arena.
4. Kenneth Chenault
The Consummate Leader
Chenault is not just the CEO of American Express; he is the face of global corporate leadership. Chairman and chief executive since 2001—one of only six African Americans to hold that dual position at a major publicly traded company—he is one of the most admired executives for his cool, Socratic approach, successfully steering Amex and serving as a presidential advisor during crises such as 9/11.
3. Reginald F. Lewis
The Global Dealmaker
With his historic $985 million leveraged buyout of TLC Beatrice International Foods Cos.—the largest offshore transaction at the time—the late financier created the first black-owned global enterprise to surpass the billion-dollar revenue mark. Throughout his business career, he helped black businesses gain access to financing and became the standard bearer for African Americans on Wall Street.
2. Robert L. Johnson
The Power Player
Johnson made business history when he took BET public in 1991, the first time a black-owned company was traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2000, he sold the cable network to Viacom for $3.2 billion, making him the first African American billionaire. He acquired the Charlotte Bobcats in 2003, creating the first black-owned NBA franchise and launched four other be 100s companies.
1. John H. Johnson
The late business icon built his publishing and cosmetics empire into an international powerhouse, distributing name brands such as Ebony, Jet, and Fashion Fair. For 60 years, he touched the lives of millions of African Americans in every facet of life, sharing with the world their talents and potential, exposing injustice and racism, and shattering social and commercial barriers.