Finding The Right Prescription for Growth

Many B.E. 100s were hurt by last year's ailing economy. Their remedy: Tighten operations and find creative ways to boost revenues.

is positioned to become the first billion-dollar company to grace the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list since 1998. (See “Ready To Rumble,” this issue.) And, as in previous years, there is another newcomer that has pierced the top 20 of our rankings: Total Premier Services (No. 13 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $242 million in sales), another Houston-based concern that produces and distributes pipes to oil companies. These two companies are part of a 16-member freshman class joining the BE 100S ranking for the first time. (See “Going Against the Grain,” this issue.)

CAMAC took the position previously held by World Wide Technology (No. 7 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $320 million in gross sales). To fortify its operations and take advantage of “e-markets,” CEO David Steward put a scalpel to his company, spinning off the Telcobuy.com unit. “Telcobuy.com was developed to utilize the Web to provide products and services to telecommunications companies, local exchange carriers, and Internet service providers,” says Steward, who owns 80% of the company, which grossed $604 million and ranked No. 2 on this year’s list. “Now, we can build the full value of the brand.” His long-term objective: to take the company public.

The inclusion of Telcobuy.com makes Steward one of the few black entrepreneurs to own multiple BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 companies — a group that has included financier J. Bruce Llewellyn and Earl G. Graves Sr., the publisher of this magazine. Steward, however, earns the distinction of being the first CEO to control two entities among the nation’s 10 largest black-owned businesses.

And there is more big news. Hold the presses: Oprah Winfrey has joined the ranks of the BE 100S CEOs. Harpo Inc., which produces her successful daytime television show, took the No. 9 spot on our BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $285 million in sales.

Two perennials — Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. (No. 3 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $419 million in sales) and Johnson Publishing Co. (No. 4 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $412.4 million in sales) — are still perched among the top five in our ranking. Johnson Publishing showed modest sales growth last year despite the fact that its iconic founder, John H. Johnson, was forced to take a medical leave. For much of the year his daughter and second-in-command, Linda Johnson Rice, presided over the company. As a reward for Johnson Rice’s solid performance, the elder Johnson recently appointed her CEO, making her the first African American woman to achieve that post among our top five companies. Johnson, however, still retains the title of publisher and chairman (see sidebar “At Ebony, A New Johnson Is CEO”).

Barden Companies (No. 6 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $326 million in sales), the leading African American casino operator, hit the jackpot last year. With an increase in revenues of 138.9%, Barden tops this year’s growth leaders. Expect the CEO to keep rolling the dice. Last year Barden acquired three casinos in Las Vegas, Tunica, Mississippi, and Black Hawk, Colorado,

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