Magazine article Ebony

The New Millionaires: Emerging Generation of Supersuccessful African-Americans Redefine Wealth

Magazine article Ebony

The New Millionaires: Emerging Generation of Supersuccessful African-Americans Redefine Wealth

Article excerpt

WANT to see a millionaire squirm? Ask how much he or she is worth. Better yet, ask if he or she is a millionaire. "Am-m-millionaire?" will be the apprehensive response. "If I had a million dollars, I'd be sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping one of those big drinks with the umbrella in it."

A level every red-blooded Americans strives to attain, but a name virtually no red-blooded capitalist ever wants to be called, the world "million aire" has always been one of the most "loaded" words in the English language. The love/hate relationship with money and those who have money has led many-a-millionaire to seek the pomp bestowed upon those who have eclipsed the seven-figure pinnacle, while at the same time hide from the circumstances that come with being the man (or the woman) of a million means. Admit to being a millionaire, and you become a walking dollar sign, a slow moving target that people want to borrow from, sue, rob, swindle and audit. Admit to being a millionaire and you will bombarded by charities, foundations, schools, friends, relatives and complete strangers, all asking, "Brother, can you spare a dime?"

But today a new breed of African-American millionaire has emerged, an assemblage of moneyed Blacks who do not broadcast their wealth, but do not run from it either. Not as flashy or as closefisted as some of their millionaire predecessors, this second generation of Black elite could more accurately be considered "millionaire lite," half the fat-(cat mentality), with none of the salt-(y stinginess). They not only give generously to worthwhile causes, but in many cases, have also create their own vehicles to deliver good works to the less fortunate.

Having earned their money in a relatively short period of time and at a relatively young age--many times through wise financial-market investments, the smart use of White capital or by being standouts in the wide-open technology, sports and entertainments fields--their numbers have skyrocketed into the thousands from only a handful 30 years ago. Add to that the increased number of Black women millionaires and the emergence of a "superrich" class of African-Americans --those with more than $50 million in assets--and the result has been a Black millionaire snowball effect that is quietly threatening to steamroll the country's social and economic hierarchy that, until now, has remained virtually unchanged for the last 200 years.

Boring by aristocratic standards, the new Black millionaires are not the topic of investigative newspaper articles or scandalous gossip columns. They have become a part of the exclusive, White-dominated world of fortune-making, not by backbiting, brown-nosing or tap dancing, but by living by one rule: "Be the best," says computer heavyweight Marc Hannah, co-founder of Silicon Graphics, which grossed an astounding $3 billion in sales last year, "and they won't care who you are or what color you are. Be the best, and you will do well."

Members of this millionaire "soul patrol" say they plan to stay on top by having the right attitude about their and CEO of Soul Circus Limited, believes learning about the good--and bad--aspects of money has been an evolutionary process for African-Americans. "I think we now realize that riches have the potential to enslave and bond you, and if not handled right, can be detrimental," says the 44-year-old who produces the critically acclaimed and highly successful Universoul Big Top Circus . "It traps you prevents you from moving forward. You start worrying about maintaining your wealth. Its like a good car--when you get out of it, you always look back at it. But if you have a raggedy car, you get out of it and keep the good-car-money while keeping the raggedy-car mentality."

Part of the makeup of that modest mentality is the development of a desire to reach back to help others. For people like Trish Millines, a 40-year-old Microsoft retiree who made a small fortune from deferred options of her employer's stock, reaching back meant starting a foundation that annually give more that $250,000 to provide computer training to people of color. …

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