The nonstop from Durham.
And why not? He's steering his firm into an industry that promises sky-high future profits, and he's already proven himself to be a good navigator at this altitude. Last November, his PCS Development Corp. was awarded five of the hotly contested personal communications services (PCS) licenses by the Federal Communications Commission. This wireless, noncellular, "narrowband" system, designed for computers, cordless phones, fax machines and paging devices, is expected to drive profits in the multibillion-dollar telecommunications industry during the next decade and beyond. Sloan Communications, one of several ventures he owns in partnership with his protege Justin F. Beckett, controls 48% of PCS Development's voting stock and seven of its 15 board seats.
Also, with the April launch of Calvert New Africa Fund, Sloan and Beckett continue a strategy of tapping investment opportunities in Africa, begun two years ago with Sloan Financial's creation of New Africa Advisers in Johannesburg, South Africa. Calvert New Africa, a pan-African, open-ended, retail mutual fund, is the product of a 50/50 partnership between Durham, N.C.-based Sloan Holdings Inc. and Bethesda, Md.-based Calvert Group Ltd.
All of this has been made possible by the soaring success of Sloan Financial Group, Sloan's power base in Durham and the parent company of New Africa Advisers and Sloan Holdings as well as NCM Capital Management Group. A money management firm founded by Sloan nearly a decade ago, NCM Capital now has 55-employees and offices in Atlanta, New York and San Diego. It manages more than $3 billion in fixed-income, equity and balanced portfolios.
From North Carolina to South Africa, from high finance to wireless communications, in air and on land, Maceo Sloan seems to be everywhere at once. His flight plan: parlaying his track record and visibility as one of the nation's most respected black money managers into opportunities in new industries and emerging markets. His destination: the pinnacle of a new black business empire. "I've been surrounded by entrepreneurs all my life," he declares. "Having watched them develop their base in very adverse conditions, I feel I have an obligation to take the base and move it to a different level."
RAISED ON AMBITIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Sloan, 45, is used to high visibility. Until recently, the Morehouse College grad was best known as founder and CEO of NCM Capital, formerly a division of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co. He created the Durham, N.C.-based money-management firm in 1986 and purchased it in 1991 from NCM Life, the nation's largest black-owned life insurance company.
In counterpoint to his impeccably tailored suits and impressive corporate jet, Sloan projects an I'm-just-a-small-southern-businessman persona. Until recently, this image was confirmed by his 1983 Chevy Impala, which was replaced (and "not a moment too soon," his employees kid him) by a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee. But don't be fooled. His relaxed exterior masks a J.D. from North Carolina Central University and an MBA from Georgia State University.
It also conceals the type of education money can't buy: decades of daily exposure to several generations of successful black businesspeople. Sloan is the scion of one of America's most illustrious black entrepreneurial families. He is the nephew of former NCM Life CEO William Kennedy and a direct descendant of Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore, a cofounder of the 96-year-old insurance company. Business and ambition are in the blood.
During the past year, Sloan and his executive vice president, partner and alter-ego, Justin F. Beckett, started interrelated businesses in America and in Africa. Between Sloan Communications, New Africa Advisers, Calvert New Africa and NCM Capital, Sloan has to do a lot of juggling under the umbrella of Sloan Financial Group. Those who know him say that, for him, it all comes with the territory of empire building.
"Sloan comes from an Afrocentric business tradition, but he puts a 21st-century spin on it," says Progress Investment Management Co. Executive Vice President Thurman V. White, whose firm once included Sloan Financial as part of its roster of emerging investment managers. "He is a gifted, talented and a very driven entrepreneur with a model for creating an African-American-controlled, diversified, financial and communications conglomerate."
PCS: NO WIRES ATTACHED
Broadly defined, PCS is a wireless system that operates on a narrower wavelength than the "broadband" systems used by most cellular phones. PCS technology, expected to expand the market for products such as cordless phones, allows voice and data to be transmitted and received through a wireless network.
Last July, 10 narrowband PCS licenses were up for grabs. However, most black-owned businesses were squeezed out of the bidding. Sloan's PCS Development, one of only five companies that acquired rights for all five FCC regions, will pay $91 million to service a national PCS network.
During the next three years, PCS Development plans to raise $250 million to $300 million in debt and equity. John L. Bauer II, a senior vice president in Lehman Bros.' wireless telecommunications division, says, "You see something like this every five or six years. It's national, it's big and it will be extremely visible. Do we want this business? You bet. Will Wall Street love PCS Development? You bet squared. These guys are going to make a lot of money."
That's not to say that it'll be easy. For one thing, attacks on FCC provisions designed to encourage minority participation in media ownership have been a prominent part of the current assault on affirmative-action policies. At FCC auctions, some white male observers alleged partnerships led by minority bidders were fronts observers wealthy minorities and majority-controlled businesses to gain an unfair advantage in bidding. PCS Development was awarded five regional licenses for $91 million. The full price would have been $151 million, but FCC rules grant minority-controlled firms a 40% discount and 10 years to make installment payments.
Ensconsed in his comfortable corner office on an overcast Sunday, Sloan rebuts those who condemn the FCC's incentives for minority participation. He says, "If we lived in a perfect world where banks based lending purely on financial data I'd agree with [critics of the FCC's policies]. But, banks will not loan $100 million to a minority no matter how good the idea or deep his or her cash flow."
Sloan and Beckett put a $10 million stake in PCS Development, borrowing it from a source he would not divulge--though
Sloan says that it was not taken from NCM Capital's funds. Adding to the equity were Sloan's partners, six venture-capital firms and government financing. PCS Development also has three operating company shareholders that specialize in paging, voice mail and data transmission. Nashville-based A+ Communications, Arch Communications Group Inc. of Westborough, Mass., and USA Mobile Communications of Cincinnati have a total of 1.5 million subscribers.
Sloan says he is far from being a novice in the telecommunications business. In 1978, along with his late mentor, Cicero Green, he formed NCM Life Communications and set up radio stations and cable TV concerns. By 1980, he was part of a black consortium that bid on the first cellular phone licenses.
Even so, the former ham radio operator admits he is no paging expert. PCS Development Chairman Sloan leaves that to his partners, Cecil L. Duffie Jr. and William D. deKay. Duffie is PCS Development's vice chairman and CEO and a co-founder of Dial Page Inc., which was sold to Nextel Communications Inc. in February. DeKay, PCS Development's president, had been a Dial Page senior manager. The trio was introduced by a mutual friend aware of their interest in wireless communications, Steve Lerner, chairman of Chapel Hill, N.C.-based FGI Inc., an integrated marketing service company. Lerner, also a founder of Sterling Cellular, is now a PCS Development director and investor.
Unsurprisingly, Duffie and deKay, who are white, reject the idea that Sloan Communication's chief value to the partnership is as a minority front. In their first meeting with Sloan, says deKay, "We spent hours talking about the business plan before we ever talked about minority opportunities." Sloan's track record as a fund manager and the fact that he is well known in venture-capitalist circles was of more interest to the partners than his ethnic background. As deKay notes, "It's not too often you have a business partner who has raised $3 billion."
PCS Development wholesales paging services to regional paging companies. Sloan intends to open retail businesses in cities to give minority entrepreneurs a chance to sell pagers and paging services. He says costs will stay low because the product sold is paging airtime, and volume equipment purchases will give distributors a buyer's edge. That way, says
Sloan, blacks can be among "the first on the bandwagon--not the last." Sloan also wants the lead underwriter for PCS Development's first capital infusion to be a black investment bank. If the largest white-owned investment banks want a piece of the action, blacks must be integral players on their side of the table as well. In corporate finance, Sloan asserts, "unless blacks insist someone black is part of the team [they do business with], there will be no blacks."
A COMFORT ZONE IN AFRICA
The Sloan Financial Group has a comfort zone in Africa. When the discussion turned to Sloan Financial's activities in the new South Africa, Sloan got up to stretch his legs, saying, "You should talk to Justin, not me, about that. NCM Capital is my child; New Africa Advisers is Justin's."
In January 1993, Justin Beckett culminated a four-year plan by opening New Africa Advisers (see "Investing In The New South Africa," Newspoints, June 1994), the first U.S. investment firm in post-apartheld South Africa. Although only 31, Beckett, the CEO of New Africa Advisers, has been active in every venture undertaken by Sloan Financial over the past eight years. The Boston native and former Duke University and Dallas Cowboys football player was an account executive at E.F. Hutton Consulting Services when Sloan hired him in 1986.
In April, Beckett and Sloan unveiled the Calvert New Africa Fund. This fund's portfolio consists of 80% to 90% listed securities, with the remaining cash in venture-capital investments. But, unlike several recent South-Africa-only focused funds, Calvert New Africa has a 50% to 60% South Africa weighting; its remaining investments are in 14 African stock markets open to foreign investors.
Calvert has selling agreements with major brokerage firms and the fund, requiring a $2,000 minimum investment, will be sold through direct mail and 800 numbers. The fund will also be open to institutional investors.
Reno J. Martini, Calvert Group's chief investment officer, projects that the fund "will be at the $100 million level in one year." According to Beckett, emerging markets provide basic, common-sense investment opportunities. Everyone wants consumer goods and needs building materials, roads and electricity. And industries providing those goods are being privatized throughout Africa. "Our model portfolio [year end 1994] is up 26% above the American Stock Exchange and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is up 17%."
THE ENGINE: SLOAN FINANCIAL
The continued success of Sloan Financial is critical to Sloan's ability to finance and maximize the potential of his other enterprises. Depending on the project, funding may be an extension of NCM Capital's business. Other ventures, such as PCS Development, are funded by loans, income from Sloan Financial and other investments.
In 1991 Minneapolis-based IDS Financial Services, now called American Express Financial Advisors (AEFA), purchased a 40% stake in Sloan Financial. Morris Goodwin Jr., an AEFA vice president and Sloan Financial director, says the company's 1993 returns matched projections, but 1994's fell short.
According to Mike Clowes, editor of the industry bible, Pensions & Investments, Sloan Financial ranked 238th in the 1,000-strong fund manager field in terms of tax-exempt assets. Sloan says the company has been in the black since 1991 and that profits have doubled annually since then, although they have not kept pace with asset growth. In 1994, Sloan Financial managed $2.97 billion from four client areas. Public pension funds provided 65%, or $1.9 billion; $740 million or 24% came from corporate pensions and disability trusts; 9%, or $250 million, from labor unions; the remaining 2%, $80 million, was invested for endowments and foundations.
According to Sloan Financial Senior Vice President and Investment Director Clifford D. Mpare, over the past three years the core equity investment performance had an annualized return of 9.15%, versus 6.27% for the S&P 500. The firm's 10 largest holdings are a mix of blue-chip, regional and cyclical stocks such as AT&T Corp., Florida-based Barnett Banks, Caterpillar, Inc. and Philip Morris Co., with one exception: their 10th largest holding, Telephonos de Mexico.
Mpare also allows that Sloan Financial's fixed-income holdings did not fare as well in 1994. In fact, SEI Capital Corp., a Wayne, Pa.-based pension fund analyst, reported that in 1994, the firm's fixed-income/government/corporate bonds were in the bottom quartile, down 4.05%. The intermediate index was down 2.65%. Mpare responds: "Clearly we have had some problems, but we have beefed up our resources, including hiring a new fixed-income director, and see improvements going forward."
NEW HEIGHTS FOR SLOAN
What's next for Sloan? A trio of projects are on tap. The first is Calvert Sloan Advisers, a company that will work with the Calvert Group to create new retail fund products. Second, Beckett will set up Sloan International, which will provide, for a fee, regional specialists to pension funds that want to expand their portfolios into global markets. And third is Sloan Financial Services. By the end of 1995, Sloan wants to create a nationwide network of individual financial planners.
He also admits, with a laugh and a twinkling eye, that this spring he and Beckett may attend the FCC's broadband auction for the next generation of cellular phone licenses. One thing is clear: Sloan intends to soar at altitudes frequented by few other high-flying entrepreneurs,
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|Title Annotation:||Business Opportunities in South Africa; Durham, NC-based Sloan Financial Group|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||May 1, 1995|
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