Capital to create minority-owned businesses of scale, seeking to provide Fortune 500 companies with diverse vendors
Additional co-investor commits up to $200 million for future transactions
One of the largest private equity fund closings for a first-time manager globally
NEW YORK – Ariel Alternatives, LLC (“Ariel Alternatives” or the “firm”), today announced the closing of Project Black, LP (“Project Black” or the “Fund”). Project Black is the first private equity initiative of Ariel Investments, LLC (“Ariel”), which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
The Fund seeks to invest in middle-market companies that may not currently be minority-owned, as well as existing Black- or Latino/a-owned businesses, with $100 million to $1 billion in revenue. Under the Fund’s ownership, these companies are expected to be transformed into certified minority business enterprises of scale that can serve as Tier 1 suppliers1 to the Fortune 500. Ariel Alternatives aims to forge partnerships between its network of the world’s largest corporations and its portfolio companies.
Project Black will leverage $1.45 billion in commitments from its limited partners and co-investors spanning the consumer retail, energy and infrastructure, financial services, healthcare, sovereign and private wealth, and technology sectors. Each investor has committed $100-$200 million over the fund’s nominal seven-year investment period. In addition to Project Black’s $1.45 billion in commitments, JPMorgan Chase & Co. intends to co-invest up to $200 million alongside the Fund in future deals.
Leslie A. Brun, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO of Ariel Alternatives, commented: “We chose to partner with large institutions that are seeking to drive widespread corporate vendor diversity. Our goal is to help close the racial wealth gap by creating minority-owned businesses of scale through access to both capital and customers.”
Mellody Hobson, Co-Founder of Ariel Alternatives and Co-CEO & President of Ariel Investments, continued: “We are scaling change. In so doing, we will redefine what it means to be a minority-owned business in the United States. We are grateful to our investors who share our mission.”
The Fund’s limited partners and co-investors include:
- AmerisourceBergen Corporation
- Amgen Inc.
- Ballmer Group
- Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation
- Lowe’s Companies, Inc.
- Merck & Co., Inc.
- NextEra Energy, Inc.
- Nuveen, the asset manager of TIAA
- Qatar Investment Authority
- Salesforce, Inc.
- Synchrony Financial (co-investor)
- Truist Financial Corporation (co-investor)
- Walmart Inc.
Project Black plans to pursue 6-10 middle-market platform companies with $100 million to $1 billion in revenue. It will focus predominately on high-margin sectors that fulfill corporate procurement needs: healthcare, industrial, media and marketing, outsourcing, manufacturing and packaging, technology, transportation and logistics, and financial and professional services.
Post-acquisition, the Fund’s investment team is expected to partner with its companies to pursue both organic and non-organic growth strategies.
As part of its pre- and post-transaction strategy, the Project Black team will seek to execute a proprietary and rigorous “demand aggregation process”—engaging its network of trusted corporate procurement leaders to confirm that target assets can meet the unfulfilled vendor and supply chain needs of the Fortune 500 and the Fund’s investors. Additionally, Ariel Alternatives employs a formal environmental, social and governance (ESG) and social impact policy in an effort to ensure the Fund’s portfolio companies have the potential to create career paths and economic growth for underrepresented minorities.
In April 2022, Project Black acquired Sorenson, the leading U.S. communications provider for people who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing, at an enterprise value of $1.3 billion. Prior to acquisition, just 3% of Sorenson’s senior leadership team and board of directors were comprised of minorities. As Ariel assumed control and actively sought to augment the organization with best-in-class leaders including CEO Jorge Rodriguez, representation significantly increased. Today, minorities now make up 43% of the senior leadership team and board. This top-down approach to diversifying the workforce is expected to create opportunities throughout the organization. In addition, Sorenson appointed a Chief Impact Officer to hold the company accountable to its ESG goals.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor to Ariel Alternatives on fund formation. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Greenberg Traurig, LLP served as advisors on the Firm’s acquisition of Sorenson. The McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility’s research and insights helped inform the Project Black strategy.
About Ariel Alternatives, LLC
Ariel Alternatives, LLC is a private asset management firm affiliated with Ariel Investments, LLC. It is an enterprise newly conceived for the times, built on a 40-year-old foundation. The firm’s inaugural fund, Project Black, aims to scale sustainable minority-owned businesses to serve as leading vendors to Fortune 500 companies—supporting supply chain diversity. Project Black plans to close the racial wealth gap by aiming to generate jobs and economic growth within underrepresented communities. The Fund invests in businesses that are not currently minority-owned, as well as existing minority-owned businesses, forging a new class of Black and brown entrepreneurs. Over the next decade, Project Black seeks to create 100,000 new jobs in disproportionately underrepresented minority communities across up to 10 portfolio companies. With scale, Black and Latino/a wealth has the potential to grow from the entry-level to the boardroom. For more information, please visit Ariel Alternatives’ website at arielalternatives.com.
About Ariel Investments, LLC
Ariel Investments, LLC is a global value-based asset management firm founded four decades ago in 1983. Ariel is headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York City, San Francisco and Sydney. As of December 31, 2022, Ariel’s firm-wide assets under management totaled approximately $16.2 billion, which includes assets from Ariel Alternatives. Ariel serves individual and institutional investors through five no-load mutual funds and nine separate account strategies. For more information, please visit Ariel’s website at arielinvestments.com.
Chief Communications Officer
1 Tier 1 suppliers provide parts and materials directly to a company.