Jackson, and North Carolina Mutual CEO William J. Kennedy. Small by industry standards, Air Atlanta had 400 nonunion employees and a fleet of five refurbished Boeing 727-100 jets. It served New York, Miami, and Memphis, Tennessee, from Atlanta.
But despite support from the city of Atlanta and its officials, as well as a solid board of directors, Air Atlanta was a casualty of the airline wars of the 1980s. Air Atlanta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1987 due to poor capitalization.
While Hollis has not made national headlines since his airline endeavor, the 46-year-old entrepreneur has been trying to make other ventures fly. A year after Air Atlanta fell, he regenerated WPBD, a 50,000-watt AM radio station he had acquired from the FCC in 1982. But by September of 1988, Hollis had sold Atlanta’s only black AM station for $4.3 million to WGST. At least 14 liens were reportedly filed for nonpayment against Hollis by companies that helped build the WPBD station.
Hollis’ new company, Hollis Industries, recently purchased 32 one-stop gas station and convenience stores from Smyrna, Georgia-based Wallace Enterprises Inc. The price tag of the acquisition: more than $30 million.
Admirers know that Hollis can’t stay grounded for long. Former Mayor Jackson maintains, “Mr. Hollis is an entrepreneur to his heart.”
Joan & Joan Johnson
Known for: Gaining control of family-owned Johnson Products Co. (JPC) B.E. milestone: November 1993 cover story on the sale of JPC to a majority-owned cosmetics conglomerate What happened: The two Joans decided to leave the compa
ny What’s Next: Making a move into real estate development
Joan B. Johnson and Joan M. Johnson Galli. Keeping up with the Joans hasn’t been easy.
The Johnson family’s mother-daughter team, Joan B. and Joan M., were featured in the November 1993 cover story, “Should Black Businesses Be Sold to Whites?” after they sold Johnson Products Co. (JPC), the Chicago-based haircare products company, to IVAX Corp., a Miami-based cosmetics and pharmaceutical holding company, for $67 million. When the Johnsons closed the deal, it was met with ire from the African American community. Many felt they had not just sold a family business, they had sold a black institution.
JPC has had an interesting history. In 1971, it became the first African American-owned firm to be listed on the American Stock Exchange. By the late 1980s, however, the company was fighting for its life, going toe-to-toe with such beauty and haircare monoliths as Alberto Culver for market share. By the end of that decade, JPC’s stock price had dropped as low as $3 a share.
If the external challenges weren’t enough, the company faced major internal upheaval. In 1989, Joan B. divorced the company’s founder, George. As part of her settlement, Joan B. assumed the helm of the $46 million concern.
Son Eric, took over day-to-day operations of the company, and their daughter, Joan M., became its marketing director. Eric’s efforts to streamline JPC’s operations helped turn around the company’s fortunes and boost the stock price. However, by 1991, family differences between him and the Joans led to