The year was coming to an end and I was on the phone with the secretary of the managing partner and president of an up and coming investment firm. I was hoping to land an interview after a tip came in that he was starting to establish a stake in a local TV station after being frustrated of their coverage of his alma mater over the past year. His secretary says emphatically to me, “He will meet with you, but only on the condition of anonymity.”
I walked into the cigar shop greeted by a fog of smoke and a moment of silence, quick stares, and boyish grins. It was obvious they do not see women in here often, but it did not take me long to see why he frequents a place like this. It was a laid back atmosphere and with a bit of ear hustling there were business deals and conversations taking place all around me. This was a place for men on a mission. It was not hard for me to spot him, given we were the only two African Americans in the shop.
He walked over and sat down as he introduced himself and got straight to business saying, “The last straw for me was the media coverage of our gradation ceremony. They even managed to somehow spin THAT negative.” I then poked at why he felt the need to keep anonymity on the situation given that it could inspire others. He replied, “Have you ever read Art of War? Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” The issue of publicity stems from his firm being small with limited resources, they are going to have to accumulate their stake in a slow and steady approach. It appears they are going to go out of their way to not have the management try to install any poison pills against a hostile takeover and not to buy too much at once as to drive up the stock price. “Those are always two major concerns in a hostile takeover and make no mistake this is hostile. I just do not want them to know its hostile until its too late”, he said. The coverage of his own alma mater will clearly become more favorable if he is successful, but what of the other colleges and universities in the area that are not HBCUs? What kind of coverage will they receive? He said, “I am not here to be Mother Theresa, I am here to win, I am here to make it more profitable, improve my alma mater’s social capital, and move those profits back into our community.” In other words, all is fair in love and war.
If nothing else is clear, he plans to kill his prey in a way that is almost snake like and squeeze the life out of it slowly but surely. Will the firm succeed? It is hard to objectively say. They are going up against well-seasoned investors’ and deeper pockets, but we could be looking at one of the most important coups in African American media ownership if successful. Even if successful, he made it clear that this would just be the start and they would then turn their eyes toward other local TV station ownership in other HBCU towns. That sound you just heard? The first domino dropping.