MELLODY HOBSON: FROM SUMMER INTERN TO LARGEST SHAREHOLDER OF A BILLION DOLLAR COMPANY
After demonstrating keen business acumen and stellar leadership at Ariel Investments L.L.C. for nearly 30 years, Mellody Hobson has been promoted to co-CEO of the billion-dollar money management firm. Hobson, who has served as the president of Ariel since 2000, is also buying shares from Founder, Chairman, and co-CEO John W. Rogers, which will make her the firm’s largest shareholder.
In a statement, Rogers applauded Hobson’s longstanding commitment and unparalleled leadership. “Mellody has been an energetic and relentless member of the Ariel family since she joined nearly 28 years ago,” he said. “Her elevation to co-CEO recognizes the reality that we have both led this firm for many years. Ariel and our clients are in terrific hands with Mellody sitting at the helm alongside me and I know she will take our firm to the next level.”
Rogers, 61, also revealed in an open letter that he is selling 14% of his holdings to Hobson, 50. Upon completion of the share purchase later this month, he will own 34.1% of Ariel and she will hold 39.5%. He described the unprecedented move as a “generational transition of leadership and ownership” at the firm. “As many know, I have never been a seller of my Ariel stock and these are the only shares that I ever plan to sell,” he wrote. “I am happily doing so to level the playing field.” Rogers, however, will remain chairman of Ariel’s board and continue to manage the firm’s stock portfolios for at least another decade.
Rogers founded the Chicago-based investment management firm back in 1983. He met Hobson at a high school recruiting fair when she was just 17 years old and hired her as a summer intern while she was at Princeton University. She became a full-time employee after her graduation in 1991 and quickly rose through the ranks at Ariel, becoming the senior vice president and director of marketing before being named president. Today, Ariel manages approximately $13 billion in assets (as of June 2019) and is one of the largest black-owned money management and mutual fund firms in the country. It was named No. 1 on the 2019 BLACK ENTERPRISE Asset Managers list.
“Ariel has been my home for nearly three decades and I am excited about the profound possibilities for the next chapter of our storied history,” said Hobson. “Ariel has always focused on delivering exceptional long-term results for our clients and I will continue that tradition as co-CEO.”
In addition to her commitment to Ariel, Hobson serves as the vice chairman of Starbucks Corp. and a board director at JPMorgan Chase. She was also a longtime board member of The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and has served as the chairman of the board of DreamWorks Animation. She is a member of the BE Corporate Directors Registry and was a keynote speaker at the BLACK ENTERPRISE 2015 Women of Power Summit. Furthermore, Hobson is married to billionaire filmmaker George Lucas. Together, the couple is currently seeking to control Johnson Publishing’s historic archives.
PHOTO CREDIT: Crain’s Chicago Business