December 1, 2003
Bertram Lee, a Washington, D.C., businessman and brief co-owner of the Denver Nuggets, passed away earlier this fall of a brain aneurysm. He was 64. The Norfolk, Virginia, native appeared on this March 1988 cover (shown below) sharing with readers his rocky road to success after teetering on the edge of failure. As president of B.M.L. Associates Inc., a Boston-based holding company that controlled stakes in six major enterprises, Lee led his company to No. 23 on the 1988 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100S list with $30 million in sales. While Lee was successful with B.M.L., he had his struggles and failures with others. In 1973, for instance, Lee and two partners purchased Geneva Printing and Publishing Co. from Avco Corp. for $250,000. That year, the company grossed $1.2 million but had losses of about $350,000. Yet despite doing everything to put the company in the black, his calculations missed the mark, and Geneva showed annual losses of around $150,000. He eventually filed for Chapter 11. In 1978, Lee co-founded the New England Television Corp. (NETV), which eventually took over programming at an ABC affiliate. When Lee sold his stock in NETV in 1986, his initial $10,000 investment was reportedly valued at $14 million.
The advertising industry lost one of its pioneers. Vince Cullers, 79, who founded the nation’s first black-owned agency, Vince Cullers Advertising, died in October following a lengthy illness. Cullers’ career began after graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago. He joined the staff of Johnson Publishing in 1953 as promotional art director for Ebony magazine. He opened his Chicago-based ad agency in 1956. Its success attracted accounts from Johnson Products Co., Lorillard Corp., the Kellogg Co., Amoco Oil, Sears, Illinois Bell, and the U.S. Treasury Department. Cullers’ early success inspired the founding of dozens of other competing black ad agencies. Ultimately, billings for the Vince Cullers Advertising would top $15 million.