The maverick was R. Donahue Peebles, CEO of Peebles Corp. (No. 79 on the 2009 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE COMPANIES list with $51.4 million in gross revenues), who received the Reginald F. Lewis Award for outstanding entrepreneurs under the age of 50. The 2004 BE Industrial/Service Company of the Year currently controls a $4 billion portfolio of luxury hotels as well as residential and commercial properties.
Reginald Lewis got us started but Loida took us on the journey,” Peebles, 49, said as he paid homage to the couple’s contributions to black business. He then shared his own journey: His grandfather was employed as a doorman of a Washington, D.C. Marriott that, years later, Peebles would acquire by using his financial prowess, Rolodex of contacts, and Lewis’ example as inspiration. As he recounted the story, it seemed like the same type of bold, deliberate move Lewis would have pulled off.
For all those who attended, it was an afternoon of empowerment and motivation—one that communicated that we can all soar to new heights and no longer bow to the limitations imposed by others. I felt privileged to be among those who gained an opportunity to talk to Lewis about his business philosophy and achievements as well as serve as one of his chroniclers. So as we complete an issue that identifies those who seek titan status, they will first have to endure the tests that come with each business cycle, each brutal competitor, each racial barrier, and each financial challenge. Trials that Reginald Lewis—and generations before him—faced and conquered. Their best advice has been uttered by Lewis to every entrepreneur with moxie and a dream that crossed his path: “Keep going. No matter what.”