Ronald E. Blaylock is in the zone. Much like his play with the Georgetown Hoyas in the NCAA Final Four in 1982, Blaylock has the hot hand and he’s taking his shot and scoring big time. First, there was his $300 million bond deal for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1996. His firm, Blaylock & Partners L.P. (B&P), played lead manager on the first corporate bond sale to be completely underwritten by minority firms. But, the coup de maitre came in January 1997 when B&P became the first minority-owned firm to serve as lead underwriter on a deal for a Fortune 500 company. It took $150 million in guaranteed notes to market for oil company giant Texaco.
That was followed by three more utility deals as co-manager, first for New Jerseybased Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), then Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and finally, Southern California Edison Co., which all took place between June and December 1997. So far in 1998, Blaylock has scored three more corporate underwritings-beginning in January with a $200 million bond deal for The Wait Disney Co., and following in February with back-to-back deals co-managing a $300 million debenture for Ford Motor Co. and another $300 million for GMAC Financial Services.
All this activity has taken place over the past two years when black-owned investment banks have been taking it on the chin on Wall Street. Whether due to tumbling profits, tumultuous relationships or thinning margins on once-profitable municipal bond business, black investment banks-especially veteran firms–are scrambling to rebound their businesses. Some industry analysts question the need for black-owned firms: “There are just too many players,” said Tony Chapelle, publisher of Securities Pro, a New York-based industry newsletter, in a 1996 New York Times article on the struggle many are facing. “The municipal business has undergone changes, and there’s the need for a lot of these firms to consolidate or find new lines of business.”
While some question the “need” for black firms, several–mostly the young, newer firms–have steered themselves away from the muni market and toward corporate business. To that end, B&P has focused itself on diversification via primary offerings, whether for private companies or government, and financial advisory work in six to seven sectors, all the while looking at business that’s consumer-driven. And B&P is on a tear.
The firm has grown from seven employees and $3.38 billion in total issues when it started in 1994 to 42 traders, analysts and staff with $14.4 billion in senior and co-managed issues at year-end 1997. The firm is in acquisition mode. If its early success is any measure of future performance, B&P is well poised for significant growth and opportunity. It’s those kinds of impressive numbers and bold business moves that have earned B&P the distinction of being the BLACK ENTERPRISE Financial Company of the Year.
MAKING THE MOST OF AN OPPORTUNITY
As a kid growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Ron Blaylock learned the value of preparing for opportunities. “Basketball was my thing,” he recalls. “It was fun,