Ariel Investment, Ariel Alternatives

Ariel Alternatives’ Project Black Acquires Majority Stake Of Multicultural Media Firm My Code At $400 Million Valuation

In its third acquisition under Project Black, Ariel Alternatives has purchased the multicultural media and marketing services firm My Code.

The private equity arm of Ariel Investments, Ariel Alternatives, purchased a nearly 60% stake in My Code from existing investors, including the private equity firm Falfurrias Capital Partners and other shareholders, at an enterprise valuation of $400 million. The sellers will retain a minority stake in My Code.

Project Black is not done on the acquisition front. The fund aims to pursue six to 10 middle-market platform companies with revenues between $100 million and $1 billion.

The latest deal occurred through Project Black, a $1.45 billion inaugural private equity fund Ariel Alternatives uses to buy businesses that are and are not now minority-owned. The fund intends to transform them into certified minority business enterprises that can serve as suppliers of scale to Fortune 500 companies. The purchase is the fund’s first acquisition in the marketing and advertising space.

Founded in 2015, My Code offers solutions to brands that meet the rapidly growing need for multicultural marketing based on provided materials. It has a network of over 1,200 publishing partners that reach diverse audiences. One is the  110-year-old El Diario, the U.S.’s oldest Spanish-language newspaper. The firm declares it has gained differentiated access and insights to diverse consumer groups, including Hispanic and Black audiences.

“We chose to partner with a business that shares our passion for speaking directly to diverse audiences, ultimately closing the racial information and opportunity gap,” stated Leslie Brun, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Ariel Alternatives. “We will work hard to scale My Code by providing access to both capital and customers.”

Ariel Investments, No. 1 on the BE Asset Managers list, has about $15 billion in assets under management. The Chicago-based Ariel is the nation’s first Black-owned mutual fund firm, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Mellody Hobson, president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, is co-founder of Ariel Alternatives.

Since Project Black’s first acquisition, Ariel Alternatives has been working diligently to identify the next platform to position as Tier 1 suppliers, a spokesperson for Brun and My Code CEO Parker Morse told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“My Code offers the opportunity to further diversify the portfolio with a company keeping pace in a rapidly evolving industry and strongly connects with Project Black’s mission to create scalable, sustainable minority-owned businesses,” the spokesperson said.

With its first purchase under Project Black, Ariel Alternatives acquired Sorenson, a top communications provider for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, in a deal reportedly worth $1.3 billion in April 2022. In another deal, Ariel Alternatives bought a 70% stake in the translation services company CQ Fluency in May 2023.

The fresh acquisition enables My Code to drive growth by aligning interests with an investor that shares Project Black’s purpose.

In the near term, the spokesperson says My Code expects to:

  • Leverage Ariel’s capital to invest in growth initiatives
  • Welcome new diverse directors to its board that bring critical expertise, including Brun, who will serve as board chairman.
  • Benefit from Project Black’s CPO Council, a group of Fortune 500 Chief Procurement Officers that provides data on supplier demand across sectors. The Council’s insights, among others from Ariel’s vast procurement network, will aid the Ariel investment team as it provides My Code with potential client introductions.

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