Marriott Steps Up Diversity Efforts

Marriott International Inc. has pledged $1 billion to minority- and women-owned suppliers and plans to double minority owners and franchisees in the next five years.

The lodging giant invested $20 million in the Urban Lodging Fund of RLJ Development L.L.C., which was founded by former BET CEO Robert L. Johnson and owns four Marriott properties. Marriott also retained Ariel Capital (No. 1 on the BE ASSET MANAGERS list) to manage a 401(k) retirement plan fund and Williams Capital Management, a majority African American-owned investment adviser, to manage overnight cash investments.

Television industry veteran Darnell Washington paid $3 million for KTGF-TV, an NBC affiliate in Great Falls, Montana. Washington’s company, Destiny Communications, got the opportunity to acquire KTGF when its former owner was forced to sell it after buying another station in Great Falls. Now Washington wants to grow to six or seven stations. “I went through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for this one and it wouldn’t be right to just stop here in Great Falls,” he said. — Keith Reed

In 1998, Wells Fargo & Co. launched its African American Business Services program with an ambitious goal: loan $1 billion to African American business owners by 2010. In February, the company exceeded the midpoint of its lending campaign. Loans average $50,000 or less and are made to businesses that are 2 to 3 years old. The program provides outreach and educational services in addition to lending money. — Ron Chepesiuk