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Newbos: The Rise of America’s New Black Overclass REVIEW

Newbos: The Rise of America’s New Black Overclass

Newbos stand for the New Black Overclass, which is based on a book being written by Lee Hawkins that is scheduled to be released September 3, 2009. Click here to pre-order the book from Amazon.com.

The show starts out with a series of interviews with a few successful black executives, celebrities and business professionals that include: Kedar Massenburg (former Record Label Executive, Motown), Chris Lighty (Founder, Brand Asset Group), Sean Combs (CEO, Bad Boys Records), Mellody Hobson (President, Ariel Investments, LLC), Wyclef Jean (Entertainer), Dr. Alvin Poussaint (Author, Professor), and Jim Brown (former NFL player).

There were several messages that came out of the brief interviews.

 “The possibilities of becoming a CEO or being rich in corporate America are far slimmer than you throwing a football or being a rapper. There are only 3 Black CEOs in corporate America. “ Kedar Massenburg

 “It’s not about making money and blowing your money, it’s about doing the proper investments.” Wyclef Jean

 “They have to focus on getting the fundamentals of a good education, they can’t look at being an entertainer or being a sports figure, they have to have something to fall back on.” Dr. Alvin Poussaint

 “A lot of them come out of poverty, without a father, and that’s a big void in their life so they are looking at the
bling bling and that’s not satisfactory, so they start acting out these other acts. Then people ask they have $20mm dollars, why are they acting like that? That’s because it’s no inner satisfaction” Jim Brown

The top black athletes and entertainers are earning revenue in the billions. They are doing this by taking more ownership of their businesses. Now in the age of Barack Obama, will they take advantage of this opportunity or squander it?

The first spotlight is on Lebron James. Lebron not only makes his money from being a star player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he is building wealth with endorsement deals with Nike, Coca Cola, and State Farm to name a few. Lebron made headlines a few years back when he fired his agent and seized control over his entire brand. He hired his childhood friends Maverick Carter and Randy Mims to run his business. They formed a company called LRMR Marketing. The decision of hiring his friends was met with criticism, but that did not stop James. In order to make sure he is doing the right things, Lebron has sought out mentors such as Warren Buffet. Lebron not only took control of his own brand, he kept money within the black community, and is also being mentored by a proven business leader. Lee Hawkins asked the question, “with Barack Obama being the first Black President, why can’t more black businesses do business together?” The answer to the question is yes, but it has to be done ‘right.’

The next spotlight is on Torrey Hunter, one of the highest paid players in professional baseball for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Torrey grew up poor, but now lives in a 20,000 square foot mansion. The question was asked is it too much with the big house and all the cars and such, and his answer was no. When you grow up poor, you didn’t have much so you want to get as much as you can when you can get it. Dan Genter is the President & CEO of RNC Center Capital Management and he manages money for professional athletes and entertainers. He sees that many star athletes and entertainers never had the financial background or a support system that is very aware, and they are thrown into having so much money, so quickly without much education. In many instances, you become the primary bread winners and are expected to solve everyone’s financial problems. Torrey states that due to having so much money, you lose friends and family members. He mentioned that 90% of his phone calls are people asking for money. Torrey is not only a star baseball player; he is a philanthropist and business owner. He does several programs to help young blacks and believes in giving back to his community.

The third spotlight is on Kirk Franklin, who has been poor, rich and in between. He is the best selling Gospel artist ever, which has made him a very rich man. When he first became rich, he stated that it was very overwhelming. The criticism of many black celebrities has been that when they make the money, they focus on the wrong things. Kirk feels he is not seeing the influence in the inner-city communities in regards to the money being made by the black celebrities. “Now that we have a black President, we have no more excuses. How many more chains, how many more cars…one Bentley can computers in an inner-city school to help kids that are struggling! We can take our wealth and put it back in our communities.” The show then focuses on a youth group at Kirk Franklin’s Church. Many of the kids don’t like how blacks are portrayed on television and don’t feel they are encouraged to pursue opportunities outside of sports and entertainment. Kirk vows to continue to help the youth while he can.

The fourth spotlight is on Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and the first black billionaire. Bob believes there are 3 ways to be super wealthy in the black community:

1. Sports
2. Entertainment
3. Industry where they provide goods and services to other blacks

There are roughly 300 billionaires in the nation and only 2 are blacks; of which both built their wealth in the entertainment industry. Lee Hawkins states that, “the fact that there are only 2 black billionaires speaks volumes of how far we have to go.” Johnson is trying to remedy that with his RLJ Company that promotes collaboration and mentorship among blacks. He is creating the platform for future black overclass moguls to rise. Johnson is the only black owner of a professional sports team, the Charlotte Bobcats, and the majority of his senior executives are black. He hopes that by creating more black millionaires, he will help create the opportunity for blacks to collaborate in business and build wealth within the black community. Johnson believes the accumulation of wealth is the quickest way for blacks to achieve the American dream.

The final two spotlights include Terrell Owens and Cash Money Records. Terrell Owens is the controversial wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys who has consistently lost endorsement deals due to being so outspoken. He does feel he owes a responsibility to the black community and donates to several causes include: Alzheimer and his Catch a Dream foundation which helps families in need.

Cash Money Records, owned by Ronald “Slim” Williams and Brian “Baby” Williams (who are brothers), is one of most profitable rap labels ever. The Williams brothers sold records in New Orleans on the street before they negotiated a lucrative record deal with Universal Records, which they kept roughly 80% of their company which was unheard at the time. Lee Hawkins asked the question has America recognized the entrepreneurial spirit of the label and the answer was not yet! The show then focuses on the jewelry worn by “Baby aka Birdman” that ranges in values of $100,000+. The question was asked, “why do you need all that?” The answer was there was a dream to have the jewelry and cars. One executive indicates that one of the strategies of having the jewelry is because the image helps sell records. With the hip hop industry as a whole on the decline, Cash Money Records is diversifying their music and still selling records.


Overall, I thought it was an okay show. I thought at times, Lee Hawkins could have went a little further with his questions, but I guess the goal is to read the book and watch the DVD to get more details. Before I watched the program, I thought is the only ways for blacks to get wealthy is through sports and entertainment and Bob Johnson pretty much confirmed that assumption. I don’t think so, but I understand that sports and entertainment is becoming the pathways for creating more black millionaires and billionaires. I wish Lee Hawkins would have featured some successful and wealthy business owners outside of the sports and entertainment. I think it would be good to showcase these people to younger kids who don’t want to be in this field.

So is it the responsibility of successful blacks to give back? And at what point is buying the big houses, cars, and jewelry too much?? Please share your thoughts!

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