Published on February 8th 2010 by Leon Shepherd

Recently Forbes magazine compiled a list of the nation’s wealthiest African Americans. Even though African Americans represent just over 12 percent of America’s population, their lengthy fight for equality is a documented part of the history of the United States. Now African Americans are taking their place among America’s wealthiest citizens. So let’s take a look at the top 10 wealthiest African Americans in the nation.


10.Quintin Primo III: Age 55


Net worth: $300 million – Source of wealth: Real Estate  Quintin Primo lll is a minister’s son who grew up in Chicago. He received an MBA from Harvard University in 1979, and also played keyboard and trumpet in a college jam band. Primo’s first finance gig was in Citicorp’s real estate lending division. In 1992 he founded Capri Capital with childhood friend Daryl Carter. His early successes were extending mezzanine loans to small borrowers that larger firms didn’t bother to serve. Today Primo’s portfolio is dominated by apartment complexes. Three years ago he paid $136 million for Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall in southern Los Angeles. Business partner Carter left in 2007, but Primo stayed on as chairman and chief executive. Assets under management are now $4.3 billion. Last June, Primo announced a $2 billion Saudi Arabia venture where he will build hotels, office towers, condos in one of King Abdullah’s anointed “economic zones.” Primo also plans to invest $1 billion in distressed assets, half-built construction projects in U.S. with financing from U.S. Treasury.


9. Berry Gordy: Age 80


Net worth: $325 million –Source of wealth: Motown, Jobete  Music pioneer Berry Gordy put away his boxing gloves for  songwriting at the age of 20. Gordy borrowed $800 from his parents to build his own Detroit based record label, Motown Records. Early in his career, Gordy wrote hit songs “Lonely Teardrops,” and “I’ll be Satisfied”. He also managed The Jackson 5, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, and Stevie Wonder. Known for running Motown’s record production like an assembly line, emulating Detroit’s Big Three car companies; Gordy fought numerous lawsuits throughout his career brought by recording artists and songwriters alleging unpaid royalties.  In 1988, Gordy sold Motown Records for $61 million; then later sold Jobete Music Corp. in installments to EMI Music Publishing for more than $300 million combined. In 2007, the hit movie Dreamgirls was said to be loosely based on Motown. So to avoid any confusion the fictional story may have caused regarding Motown’s legacy, Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks issued a formal apology to Gordy.



8. R. Donahue Peebles: Age 50

Net worth: $350 million – Source of wealth: Real Estate  R. Donahue Peebles, grandson of a hotel doorman, owns one of the country’s largest African-American real estate development companies.  Peebles Corporation’s portfolio includes hotels, apartments and office space in Miami Beach and Washington, D.C. In 1979, “Don” left Rutgers University to become a real estate agent in the District of Columbia. While attending Capital Page School, Don worked on Capitol Hill as a page and an intern for congressmen John Conyers and Ron Dellums. Today Don owns 13 acres of prime Las Vegas land behind Steve Wynn’s Encore casino, slated for redevelopment. He also owns pricey land in Southern California and has authored two books, The Peebles Principles and The Peebles Path to Real Estate Wealth.


7. Shelia Johnson: Age 60


Net worth: 400 million – Source of wealth: BET, investments  Shelia Johnson is a doctor’s daughter and violinist who co-founded Black Entertainment Television with former husband Robert Johnson. The couple met in college at University of Illinois. The duo sold BET to Viacom for $3 billion in stock and assumed debt; then split the fortune in divorce in 2002 after a 33-year marriage. Today, Johnson is chief executive of Salamander LLC, which controls a portfolio of luxury resorts. Through investment in Lincoln Holdings, Johnson owns stake in NHL’s Washington Capitals, NBA’s Washington Wizards, and WNBA’s Washington Mystics. Johnson is the Mystics’ president and managing partner.


6. William Henry Cosby, Jr. Age 72


Net worth: $450 million – Source of wealth: The Cosby Show, entertainment  Bill Cosby is legendary comedian born in Philadelphia. Cosby left high school in the10th grade and finished via correspondence course while he was in the Navy. Cosby broke a long-standing racial barrier when he was cast as an equal to a white actor on NBC’s “I Spy” in the 1960s. His role as Alexander Scott garnered him three Emmy Awards. Cosby left TV for stand-up comedy. He eventually returned to the small screen in1984, and launched The Cosby Show on NBC, propelling the network to first place. The iconic show about an upper-middle-class black family living in New York has made him hundreds of millions in pay and syndication dollars. Cosby’s best-selling book Fatherhood sold 4 million copies. Today Cosby spends time doing stand-up on the road. With wife Camille, Cosby donated $20 million in 1988 to Spelman College in Atlanta. Cosby continues to support education and various social service and civil rights organizations. A jazz enthusiast, Cosby built a collection of 400 works of African-American art dating from the 18th through the 20th century. In 2002, Cosby was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his contributions to American culture.


5. Earvin “Magic” Johnson Age 50


Net worth: $500 million – Source of wealth: Restaurants, real estate, investments  Earvin “Magic” Johnson” grew up in Lansing, Michigan, with nine brothers and sisters. His father worked at a General Motors plant and his mother was a school custodian. Johnson played at Michigan State and won a national championship in 1979 in one of many legendary matchups against Larry Bird. As a professional, Johnson led the Los Angeles Lakers to five world championships. His 13-year career in NBA included three MVP awards, 12 NBA All-Star games, a gold medal at the1992 Barcelona Olympics and induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1991, Johnson retired from the NBA after announcing he had contracted HIV. He later became an entrepreneur and introduced well-known brands to ethnically diverse neighborhoods via Magic Johnson Enterprises. Today Johnson has partnerships with Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness, T.G.I. Fridays, and AMC Theatres. Johnson also invests in urban real estate and companies catering to America’s underserved markets via his Canyon-Johnson and Yucaipa-Johnson funds. Johnson has awarded more than $1.1 million to community-based organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.


4. Michael Jordan: Age 47

Net worth: $525 million – Source of wealth: Basketball, Nike, endorsements  Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player ever, led the NBA’s Chicago Bulls to six world championships during the 1990s.  Jordan left basketball for a stint as a minor league baseball player after his third NBA championship in 1993. He returned to the Bulls two years later. In 1999, Jordan retired again and took ownership stake and an executive job with the Washington Wizards. In 2001, Jordan returned to the court and signed a 2-year contract with the Wizards. Jordan’s total points scored: 32,292, ranking him third all-time. Jordan released Air Jordan basketball sneaker with Nike in 1984. The Jordan brand brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year in sales for Nike. The royalty checks provide the bulk of the former star’s income today. Other lucrative deals throughout his career include Gatorade, Hanes, and Upper Deck. Jordan owns stake in Robert Johnson’s Charlotte Bobcats, and runs the team’s basketball operations. Jordan’s son, Jeffrey, plays basketball at the University of Illinois, and younger son Marcus recently signed letter of commitment to play for University of Central Florida next fall.


3. Robert Johnson: Age 63

Net worth: $550 million – Source of wealth: BET, investments  Robert Johnson founded cable channel Black Entertainment Television in 1979 with $15,000 of his own money and a $500,000 investment by cable king John Malone’s Tele-Communications Incorporated. In 2000 Johnson became the first African-American billionaire by selling BET to Viacom for $3 billion in stock and assumed debt. Former wife and BET co-founder, Sheila Johnson, took a big chunk of the fortune in 2002 as part of the divorce settlement. Johnson’s company, RLJ Companies, has purchased hotels, casino games, banks, the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.


 2. Tiger Woods: Age 34

Net worth: $600 million – Source of wealth: Golf, endorsements  Golf prodigy, Tiger Woods, showed off his putting skills on The Mike Douglas Show at the age 2. Ever since then, he has shown greatness like none other. Woods left Stanford University after two years at the age of 20 in 1996 to turn pro. He has since won 66 PGA tournaments, including 14 major championships. Woods is now hunting Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major career wins. Woods has been named PGA Player of the Year nine times and his total career winnings of $84, million makes him the most successful golfer in the history of the sport. Woods annual on-course winnings represent less than 15% of his income. Lucrative sponsorship contracts from Nike, Gatorade, Gillette, Accenture, AT&T and others earn him at least $100 million each year.  Woods recent admittance of infidelity made a few sponsors decide to no longer use him, while the majority of his sponsors still stand behind him.


1. Oprah Winfrey: Age 56

 Net worth: 2.7 billion – Source of wealth: Harpo Productions   The Oprah brand continues to hold its value despite the recession, as viewers tune in for money-saving tips, celebrity interviews and relationship advice. Winfrey, a rural Mississippi native worked the television news circuit in Nashville, Tenn., and Baltimore, Md. Winfrey transformed a faltering Chicago morning program into a popular talk show. Winfrey launched The Oprah Winfrey Show nationally in 1986, which now airs in 144 countries and brings in 44 million U.S. viewers each week. Her Harpo Productions helped create the Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, and Dr. Oz shows. Winfrey is planning to launch The Oprah Winfrey Network sometime this year.

Miscellaneous | Comments (7)

7 Responses to “Top 10 Wealthiest African Americans”

  1. Peaches Says:

    I am proud of fellow Black Americans, with there many versatile accomplishments.

  2. Sulaiman Dave Bola-Babs Says:

    Great inspirational memoirs not only for African-Americans but also for mainstream Africans, especially in Nigeria, my darling country.

  3. Dwight Ausbrooks Says:

    I really enjoyed reading about these individuals and their success. I have emailed my children this website to inspire them also to take advantage of every opportunity.

  4. Leon Shepherd Says:

    Thanks for the positive feedback Dwight. And thanks for sharing the site with your children.

  5. Wordpress Themes Says:

    Nice post. This helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you.

  6. onlinecasinotx Says:

    Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

  7. Leon Says:

    Thank you!