Known for: Being the highest-ranking African American at McDonald’s Corp. B.E. milestone: Appeared on both BE’s 25 Hottest Black Managers list in 1988 and the 1993 BE Power 40 What happened: Retired from his corporate home of 37 years in 1999 Current project: Serving as key supplier to his former employer
Robert Beavers Jr. Many consider Robert Beavers Jr. to be as connected to McDonald’s Corp. as the world-renowned Big Mac. Consider him the “Big B.”
Over his 37-year career, he rose from being a $1-an-hour crew member to being the corporation’s highest ranking African American executive. In his role as senior vice president and zone manager, he was responsible for the management and real estate of over 1,800 stores, which generated over $2 billion annually.
As a result, Beavers earned kudos from be twice in a five-year period. He was designated one of the 25 Hottest Black Managers in Corporate America in 1988 and one of the be Power 40 in 1993.
Now, the 56-year-old corporate pioneer has become an entrepreneur. Last year, Beavers was part of a group of investors that purchased Brea, California-based Fresh Start Bakeries, one of McDonald’s largest suppliers. A former division of the Campbell’s Soup Co., Fresh Bakeries has sold buns exclusively to McDonald’s for 32 years.
But now Fresh Start is moving into new areas. “We’ve just taken on a military contract for our product to be distributed to [U.S. military] bases throughout the country and parts of the world,” says Beavers, who is also vying for major contracts with supermarkets and other fast-food chains.
The retired executive is also the founder and organizer of United Community Bank based in Lyle, Illinois. Along with a multicultural group of investors, he plans to launch the commercial and personal banking institution in August.
Beavers has come a long way indeed from flipping burgers.
Known for: Being one of the first blacks to own and operate a regional airline B.E. milestone: Featured in June 1985, he stated that he was preparing his company to compete in the burgeoning commuter field What happened: His airline was grounded by 1987 Current project: Owns a chain of gasoline stations
Michael Hollis. These days, BET Holdings founder Robert Johnson is getting a great deal of press about being a black entrepreneur trying to get a regional airline off the ground. But 17 years ago, lesser known Michael Hollis, then 29, was the first African American to actually do such a thing. He was the founder and chairman of Air Atlanta.
In the June 1985 feature “Air Atlanta’s in a Holding Pattern,” be reported how the Atlanta-born attorney and entrepreneur raised over $45 million to launch Air Atlanta, gaining financing from such companies as the Equitable Life Assurance Society (today known as AXA Financial Advisors), General Electric Credit Corp., Aetna Life Insurance, UNC Ventures, the largest black venture capital firm at the time, and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., the country’s largest black insurer. His star-studded board of directors included the former mayor of Atlanta, Maynard