Black-Owned Mutual Fund Secures $200 Million to Fund ‘Project Black’ Initiative

Ariel Investments, LLC on Wednesday announced the launch of its Ariel Alternatives and the Project Black initiative.

The firm has secured a $200 million commitment from JPMorgan Chase, as it gradually ventures into a private fund. The fund was led by Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson and global investment manager Leslie A. Brun. Its goal is to invest and scale minority-owned businesses to narrow the racial wealth gap.

“It is no secret that the racial wealth gap in America continues to widen, day by day,” Brun said in a release. “While we have been encouraged and inspired by the supply chain diversity commitments recently made by large corporations, we believe that it is time to accelerate these promises with real measurable steps. Our work will aim to bring operational excellence, financial resources, minority ownership, and leadership to these companies.”

Ariel Investments was founded by John W. Rogers in 1983. The firm has since grown to manage $15 billion in assets by adopting a patient investment strategy. The company is finally diversifying its portfolio to include private assets management, Ariel Alternatives.

The first mission of Ariel Alternatives is the ‘Project Black’. The goal of the new initiative is to invest and scale minority-owned or led businesses that can become major suppliers to Fortune 500 companies. ‘Project Black’ will focus on suppliers across several industries including technology manufacturing, transportation, media and marketing.

Project Black will kick-off investing in middle-market companies that are not minority-owned at the moment, according to a release. These companies will then be transformed into certified minority-owned businesses, and Black- and Latinx-owned business enterprises. The initiative team hopes that it will “forge a new class of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs” and also build diversity in supply chains.

By extension ‘Project Black’ goals will boost economic activity, provide more access to opportunities in underserved communities, and create more jobs. It will ultimately play an important role in narrowing the racial wealth gap.

“Through Project Black, we plan to ultimately disperse opportunity throughout underrepresented communities. We want to change the narrative and foster true action and demonstrable change,” Hobson said. “Ariel’s 38-year heritage was built on a patient yet urgent approach to public investing. The same core values will be brought to Ariel Alternatives in the private investment arena.”

Co-founders of Project Black, Frantz Alphonse and Richard Powell will lead the Ariel Alternatives’ investment team. Both co-founders were formerly co-founders and senior managing directors of private investment and corporate development firm APC Holdings LLC (APCH). Alphonse and Powell will partner with Ariel Alternatives and Project Black senior managing director Charles Corpening, who also formerly served as the Chairman of private equity firm, Joshua Partners, and a longtime co-investor and senior advisor to APCH.

All three senior members of the team have worked in similar markets for decades and can establish strategic relationships with Fortune 500 C-Suite executives.

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