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From dealmakers to urban marketers, B.E. 100s companies are redefining business as usual--and American industry will never be the same

AS THE CENTURE DRAWS TO A close, we find many of the BE 100s CEOs have prepared themselves well for the coming millennium. For some, this has occurred through acquisition and nurturing critical business alliances. For others, it's meant delving into heretofore unexplored niches.

The fruits of their labor have had a telling impact on their respective bottom lines. Total sales for the BE 100s were $14.02 billion in 1998, a 6.29% increase from the $13.19 billion in sales in 1997. As a result, the bar for joining our exclusive listing has been raised ever so slightly, from the $18 million in revenue needed in 1998 to the $23.5 million required in 1999.

Besides the industrial/service and automotive sectors, black-owned businesses in other sectors continue to grow. Despite challenges from mainstream firms, the companies on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list showed a sizable growth in billings of 11.49% And, fighting to stay competitive in a rapidly changing environment, the BE FINANCIAL 50 list--our collective rankings of the top 15 African American investment banks, the 25 leading black banks and the 10 largest black-owned insurers--increased their assets while pursuing capital, clients and deals. Even the black insurance companies, locked in one of the most mature industries; held on to their turf through joint ventures, state-of-the-art technology and a range of new products--a new way of doing business for this group.

The financial prosperity of the BE 100s did not occur in a vacuum. Indeed, if the Dow, which has advanced to and retreated from the 10,000 mark in recent weeks, is any indicator, the BE 100s simply rode the wave of economic growth like the vast majority of U.S. firms. An economy marked by robust growth, low interest rates and strong consumer confidence gave a needed boost to many corporate bottom lines across the board.

It has been, indeed, a notable year. A record 39 BE 100s companies reported revenues of at least $100 million. And for the first time, the claim of owning the nation's largest black-owned business actually falls to an auto dealer. The Mel Farr Automotive Group continued its dominance in 1998 with $596.6 million in sales, a 4.1% increase from the $573.1 million the concern had in sales the year before. This makes the former professional football player the CEO of the nation's largest black-owned business.

But where do we go from here? While J. Bruce Llewelly, John Johnson and Loida Lewis form a powerful triumvirate atop the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list, in many ways they represent the last of an older generation. As the new millennium approaches, there's a young, aggressive group of entrepreneurs snapping at their heels, eager for their time in the spotlight. They are the "New Power Generation--a group of CEOs no longer tied to convention who have sought to grow their enterprises by developing strategic alliances, creating vertically integrated empires, demonstrating deal-making prowess and introducing revolutionary products and services. These concerns will invariably create a crop of billion-dollar companies that will rival the Fortune 500 over the next century.

Examples abound. They include auto dealers Anthony March and Ernest Hodge, who have sought growth through synergy and partnership. Others, like Carlton Highsmith, the CEO of Specialized Packaging Group, and Dumas M. Simeus, CEO of Simeus Foods International, have grown through acquisition and expansion.

While the BE 100s veterans continue steering the course, others are just beginning their vertical climb to the rafters. From the one-two punch of Beverly and William Parker at Washington Cable Supply Inc. to the technical wizardry of David Steward at World Wide Technology, these CEOs represent a new driving force in American business. The New Power Generation will not be denied.


Eligibility for the B.E. 100s

The BE 100s are comprised of the Be INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 and the BE AUTO DEALER 100 lists. To be eligible for the INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list, a company must have been fully operational in the previous calendar year and be at least 51% black owned. It must manufacture or own the product it sells or provide industrial or consumer services. Brokerages, real estate firms and firms that provide professional services (accountants, lawyers, etc.) are not eligible. To qualify for the AUTO DEALER 100 list, a dealership must have been fully operational in the previous year and be at least 51% black owned.

BLACK ENTERPRISE consults industry analysts and other sources to verify the information contained in the lists. All data are reviewed by the accounting firm Mitchell & Titus L.L.P. Companies not appearing on this year's list (but previously listed) have been excluded because they are no longer black owned or their gross sales have dropped below the minimum level required to make the list.

The BE 100s, as well as other business lists compiled by BE, are available on computer disk, in both Windows and Mac formats. TopList Software provides mailing addresses and phone numbers of the companies listed as well as information on black organizations.

For more information, contact B.E. Unlimited at 212-886-9576.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:African American-run companies
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 1, 1999
Previous Article:ON THE MOVE.
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