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Home Entrepreneurship He Was The First Black Man To Own A Billion Dollar Company

He Was The First Black Man To Own A Billion Dollar Company

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When TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. reported revenues in excess of $1 billion in 1987, the world witnessed a milestone. This was the first time a Black owned company reported more than $1 billion in annual sales. TLC Beatrice was a snack food, beverage, and grocery store conglomerate, which also happened to be the largest Black owned and managed business in the country. The man behind the brand was the late Reginald F. Lewis, a native of Baltimore who was one of the most wealthy and impactful men in America.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum, photo taken from lewismuseum.org

At its peak in 1996, TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. was number 512 on Fortune magazine’s list of 1,000 largest companies, with sales of $2.2 billion. Lewis started life in Baltimore, before attending Virginia State University on a football scholarship. Lewis earned a degree from VSU in political science in 1965, then went on to Harvard Law School — he was admitted to Harvard without even applying. After earning his law degree in 1968, Lewis was recruited to a top firm as a corporate attorney. Two years later, however, Lewis started his own firm — Lewis is thought to be the first Black person to open a Wall Street law firm. In 1983 Lewis created TLC Group L.P., a venture capital firm.

Lewis’ biggest move in business came in 1987 when he acquired Beatrice International Foods from Beatrice Companies for $985 million, which he renamed TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. With his success Lewis invested in Black institutions, including a $1 million gift to Howard University and $5 million from his foundation to help launch the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, in Baltimore. The museum highlights the history and accomplishments of Black people with a particular focus on Maryland’s Black community.

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D'Juan Hopewell
I care about Black Power. Period. Currently working on creating jobs and funding new startups on the South Side of Chicago and writing here and there at HopewellThought.com. Follow me @HopewellThought.
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4 COMMENTS

  1. Meeting Leaders Like Jesse Jackson and Ron Brown Secretary of Commerce i believe whole Heartedly in Economic Growth and Development and P. L. 95-507 introduced by Congressman Parren Mitchell of Baltimore MD. Beatrice Foods International was a strong Factor in Moving the Agenda Forward for Black Entrepreneurial Ingenuity and Dynamism; Mr. Lewis was right Why sould all the white guys have all the fun.

  2. Definitely a good highlight! After Mr. Lewis’ death, his wife was running TLC. The final assets were ultimately sold in the late 90’s to another brand. Read ‘Why Should White Guys Have all the Fun?’ This brotha was doing mergers and acquisitions, back in a time that was unheard of (sadly, we still don’t have enough – its probably the easiest way to get into business, just buy it) …

    We have to learn from him. Black wealth, circulate. Black wealth, circulate. “Thats how you rinse it” (working for the man, its probably dirty lol)

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