Tag Archives: oprah winfrey

Morehouse, Morehouse, Morehouse: 2019’s Million Dollar Donations To HBCUs Dominated By The Tigers Of The AUC

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”

–Andrew Carnegie

2019 proved to be a stellar year for HBCUs and million dollar donations. Since HBCU Money began tracking these donors, 2019 has the most million dollar plus donations with eleven, ten to HBCUs directly and one to an HBCU supporting organization. Also in terms of total value of donations 2019 sets the record with $66.1 million. The one hiccup is that the number of donations is still not representative of the percentage of HBCUs to overall colleges and universities. HBCUs accounted for only 2.2 percent of the million dollar plus donations in 2019 (despite accounting for 3 percent of the nation’s colleges). That being said, the sun shined as bright as it ever has in 2019. There will be plenty of complaints that Morehouse College dominates the list with virtually half of the donations, but that also speaks to alumni not investing enough in their HBCU’s development infrastructure which at most HBCUs is an underfunded and understaffed. Endowing positions in the development office is a great place for alumni to see a strong return on investment of their alumni dollars.

High-quality donors (who give consistently and over their lifetime will probably give six to seven figures of donations) continue to show up for HBCUs, but still not representative of HBCUs presence in America’s higher education landscape. While HBCUs represent three percent of the country’s colleges, HBCUs accounted for only 2.2 percent of the million dollar plus donations in 2019. Tranformative donors (who can change the paradigm of an entire institution with one donation) continue to elude HBCUs all together, while PWI/HWCUs landed 10 donations of $100 million plus in 2019. CalTech, a private research focused university in Pasadena, CA, landed an awe inspiring $750 million donation from Stewart & Lynda Resnick.

The gap this year between top eleven PWI/HWCU gifts totaled $2.1 billion while HBCUs as mentioned totaled $66.1 million or a $32 to $1 ratio.

1. Robert F. Smith (pictured) – $34 million
Recipient: Morhouse College
Source of Wealth: Finance

2. Oprah Winfrey – $13 million
Recipient: Morehouse College
Source of Wealth: Media & Entertainment

3. Eugene McGowan, Jr.  – $4.6 million
Recipient: Morehouse College
Source of Wealth: Education

4. Jeffrey Dean & Heidi Hopper – $4 million
Recipient: Howard University
Source of Wealth: Technology

5. Virginia Howerton – $2.5 million
Recipient: Virginia Union College
Source of Wealth: Consulting

6. Shari Griswold – $2 million
Recipient: Prairie View A&M University
Source of Wealth: Oil

7. William Pickard & Judson Pickard, Jr. – $2 million
Recipient: Morehouse College
Source of Wealth: Food & Beverage, Hotels & Casinos

8. Jon Stryker – $2 million
Recipient: Spelman College
Source of Wealth: Family Wealth

9. Robert F. Smith – $1.5 million
Recipient: Morehouse College
Source of Wealth: Finance

10. Oprah Winfrey – $1.5 million
Recipient: UNCF
Source of Wealth: Media & Entertainment

11. Jose Feliciano & Kwanza Jones – $1 million
Recipient: Bennett College
Source of Wealth: Marketing, Finance

Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy

OWN Programming STILL Fails To Excite: Women Are Beyond Soap Operas And Chocolate (Maybe Not Chocolate)

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” – Oprah Winfrey


Five years ago, Oprah Winfrey hung up her crown as the greatest daytime host ever to assume the full-time CEO role of her then fledgling network. The Oprah Winfrey Network better known as OWN, a 50-50 partnership between Harpo Productions and Discovery Communications, was suppose to allow Oprah’s rabid fan base to transition from just a few hours of her a day to twenty four hours of programming laid out by the queen of television. You know when they say be careful of what you ask for? This became the question Ms. Winfrey had to be asking herself in the first few years of the new network. Filling twenty four hours of programming versus a few hours proved to be as expected quite a mountainous task. There was shakeup at the network not even one year into its debut as Discovery Communications flexed its muscle in the partnership influencing some changes in leadership. It has helped, but is OWN missing a chance to be a transformative platform for women that can also be a financial juggernaut?


Filling twenty four hours of quality programming for women actually should not be that complicated. Unfortunately, OWN has reduced women’s interest to a version of Lifetime “light”, Tyler Perry shows, Dr. Phil episodes, and now that Oprah has a ten percent ownership in Weight Watchers International expect viewers to get a full barrage of subtle (or not) hints at body shaming. This new formula has certainly paid off for the network with the most successful quarter in the network’s history coming in the first quarter of 2015. Maybe the expectation that OWN could be much more than it is is unrealistic, but this unimaginative content is not reflective of the myriad of interest that anyone who is a woman or knows a woman has. And it is that very lack of imagination that will keep OWN as a marginal television station and investment for Discovery Communications who may eventually decide to jettison the partnership and financially costing Ms. Winfrey dearly. So what should be done?

The most profitable live television events right now that can not be DVR’d is sports programming, which is why media companies are paying billions to have the licensing rights to the NFL and other live television events in the moment. Sports is an acute missing piece of the OWN programming puzzle, especially when it comes to the NFL where women are the fastest growing demographic fan base. Now, nobody needs to kid themselves that OWN, Discovery, or Ms. Winfrey personally can afford to buy licensing rights to prime NFL games. Disney, a company ten times the size of Discovery Communications and owner of ESPN, pays the NFL almost $2 billion annually just to show NFL games. That being said, where is the “Sportscenter” for women on OWN? Gone are the days where women just sat next to their boyfriend or husband and watched the game. Today, women are as knowledgeable if not more about the game and those who are not are interested in knowing more. A NFL show hosted by women for women could easily take up one or two hours everyday on the network. There are a plethora of women football gurus on social media with devout followings like Lizz Robbins (Lizzs_Lockeroom) with almost 30 000 followers. She tweets about everything from the NFL, NBA, MLB, and even NHL covering a plethora of women demographics that advertisers would love. Never mind it may make the NFL come advertising with OWN instead of the other way around. Secondly, live women’s sporting events often are given the second hand treatment by both men (and women) sporting fans. The WNBA needs more exposure and OWN could offer the league prime time spots. Every professional sport women participate in like the LPGA and WTA could benefit from time on OWN and OWN could benefit from their content. Now, instead of fathers and sons rooting on their favorite athlete it could be mothers and daughters cheering on Serena Williams or Skylar Diggins. You know ESPN’s 30 for 30? What about producing one of those on “Babe” Zaharias, the multi-sport start of the early twentieth century that showed many that women loved to get down and dirty and compete just like her male counterparts. Again, a women-centric view that speaks to not only women’s interest, but highlights women’s participation that is so often overlooked in mainstream media.


Beyond sports, there is a treasure trove of other possibilities. A show on technology that features Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, and Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, could highlight news on the latest in women’s work and innovation in the field. A political show with both liberal and conservative views featuring the recently released MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and Christina Sommers, respectively. Apart or together they would certainly generate fireworks, ratings, and revenue with both having very strong social media followings. And given women’s increased economic importance to both their household and the nation, a myriad of shows such as financial and investment news featuring Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments in Chicago, or a complete show dedicated to women entrepreneurs who are now responsible for 3 out of every 5 new businesses (see above) started in the United States. The Federal Reserve, arguably the world’s most powerful bank, is led by a woman. The next president of the United States of America maybe a woman. Countless countries around the world are already headed by women. Again, the possibilities for meaningful, substantive, and profitable content are endless because women’s interest are as vast as the land and sea.

It is hard to know whether OWN is actually being held back by its relationship with Discovery Communications, which may have a formula it believes works for women’s programming. The problem is that programming model is outdated. Gone are the days where the belief was that women only want to watch soap operas and eat chocolate. There is an opportunity for OWN to be a trailblazer in reflecting the new reality and profit handsomely from doing so. Women’s importance is no longer behind closed doors, but in the forefront of every aspect of our society today. It is time that mediums, especially ones that are visual and have the ability to impact future generations of girls reflect the new world. The leadership at OWN must realize that being at the vanguard of this will be what ensures its success (and profitability) and not doing so will ultimately doom it to the dustbin. After all, this is business.

Oprah Winfrey Purchases Over 10 Percent Of Weight Watchers International


In a surprise move to many, Oprah Winfrey, Tennessee State University alum and second wealthiest HBCU graduate, purchased a 6.4 million shares of Weight Watchers International’s 57.3 million outstanding shares giving her an 11.2 percent stake in the company. She also has the option to purchase an additional 3.5 million shares, which would push her stake in the company to 17.3 percent. In either case the deal makes Ms. Winfrey the company’s second largest shareholder behind the Artal Group S.A., which itself is owned by Invus, an European shared family office representing a number of wealthy European families.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.14.33 PM

The deal also is going to feature Ms. Winfrey as the new face of Weight Watchers. A move to help the long embattled company turnaround is the hope of Ms. Winfrey’s midas touch, that itself has lost some of its luster the past few years. OWN, Ms. Winfrey’s network that she co-owns in a 50-50 venture with Discovery Communications, has struggled to truly gain traction and take off as many had hoped. However, we can certainly expect Weight Watchers to become featured product on the channel’s programming that targets women 25-54.

Will this deal pay off for Ms. Winfrey and her HARPO, Inc.? After the announcement of Oprah’s investment shares in the company doubled and risen almost 150 percent in a little over a week since the October 16th close. Despite this feverish rise short sellers in the company have increased their borrowing of shares by 25 percent. A sign that Ms. Winfrey’s presence is nothing more than temporary fix to a company that may be permanently broken. One of the key statistics to examine is Weight Watcher’s net income (profits) is down over almost 55 percent over the past three years. However, one must also assume that Ms. Winfrey and her team did their due diligence prior to such an investment and see some light at the end of the tunnel.

If the deal does fail, do not worry. The $43.2 million investment in Weight Watchers International is only 1.4 percent of Ms. Winfrey’s net worth, which currently stands at $3.1 billion.


Can HBCUs Produce Billionaires?

By Jarrett Carter, Sr.

Ideas can be life-changing. Sometimes all you need to open the door is just one more good idea. – Jim Rohn



Oprah Winfrey (pictured above) – The only African American billionaire & HBCU alum. Her most recent Forbes’ net worth is $2.9 billion. Who will be the next HBCU alumni to join her?

Colleges With The Most Billionaire Alum & Combined Wealth:

  • Harvard – 52; combined wealth of $205 billion
  • Pennsylvania – 28; combined wealth of $112 billion
  • Stanford – 27; combined wealth of $76 billion
  • New York – 17; combined wealth of $68 billion
  • Columbia – 15; combined wealth of $96 billion
  • M.I.T. – 15; combined wealth of $114 billion
  • Cornell – 14; combined wealth of $35 billion
  • Southern California – 14; combined wealth of $32 billion
  • Yale – 13; combined wealth of $77 billion
  • Cambridge – 11; combined wealth of $48 billion

Last year, Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough asked newly minted (allegedly) billionaire Dr. Dre about the missing love for historically Black colleges and universities following a sizable gift he made to the University of Southern California. The question was legitimate from most cultural angles – how does a Black man who made money making Black music for Black audiences boost the endowment of a predominantly white university?

But the question also demands a broader perspective on Black wealth and how it is created. Dr. Kimbrough’s argument was for the sake of Black wealth remaining in Black ecosystems of wealth creation. The center of those ecosystems, of course, is the Black college. But can the Black college serve as an economic engine powerful enough to create the next billionaire, or handful of billionaires?

On its surface, the answer would appear to be a resounding ‘no’. The HBCU was borne out of a white elitist obligation to make of former slaves and their descendants the teachers, preachers, and farmers that would serve as a generational of professional midwives to a humble, quiet existence amid the burgeoning industrial revolution. Along the way, HBCUs evolved into institutions where African-Americans would train to become physicians, engineers, combat heroes, scientists, lawyers, and pastors – all of the makings of a generation of emerging wealth for Black communities.

But as that generation was coming of age in industrial and financial independence, the nation again divided on the common problem of race, requiring the whole of its brain trust to dedicate mind and money to the cause of equity for all. At the end of the battle, desegregation was won. But the casualty of the battle was the cultural allegiances that birthed innovation and productivity for Black communities, and took the precious, dwindling commodity of racial pride out into predominantly white companies, neighborhoods, and values.

Today, the HBCU attracts but a portion of the best and the brightest from Black America; the rest remain lured by the false promises of diversity, equal opportunity, and post-racial societal ease. The training, nurturing, and programmatic development of the HBCUs falls on only a small segment of Black America’s collective and emerging intellectual capital. The youth are fractured, their networks are frayed and the genius that is unbridled innovation is capped by the promise of a six-figure job at a firm or company that, in rare cases, is owned by an African-American. To the last point, there are 5.7 million American firms with paid employees, but African Americans only own 1.9 percent of them.

The question is not if an HBCU can create a billionaire, but rather, can an HBCU create the network that helps to spawn billionaire potential? Facebook was founded, in part, by a group of friends at Harvard. Apple was founded by a group of college students. In fact, Silicon Valley was founded by Stanford University and originally known as Stanford Research Park. Other notable companies that have come out of colleges Google, Microsoft, Dell, and FedEx. Sam Walton and Jeff Bezos, titans of retail, were able to begin their careers thanks to sizable loans from family. The latter founded Amazon with a $300 000 loan from his parents.

Do HBCU students, families, and communities have the kind of commitment to pooling human and financial resources to cultivating substantial wealth? The answer is yes; but have HBCUs been built and marketed to serve as the incubators for this kind of thinking and development? Based upon current teaching, social and cultural structures on the Black college campus, the answer is no.

And that is something even Dr. Dre can’t cure.

2012’s Top Ten Earning African Americans


The top ten earning African Americans earned approximately $700 million last year. It should be noted that these are pre-tax and pre-fee earnings. Because the majority of African America’s highest earners still earn their money through sports and entertainment their earnings are considered earned income by IRS definition and taxed at the highest tax rate which this year is almost 40 percent. Couple that with their agent fees (byproduct of being in the entertainment industry is a need for endless amounts of handlers) that average in the range of 10 percent, the group of ten will pay out almost 50 percent of their earnings. Chris Rock is famously quoted as saying “Shaq is rich, the white man who signs his check….is wealthy.” The income disparity between the top ten earning African Americans and European Americans is a staggering $0.07 for every $1.00 while the overall income gap between African Americans is $0.52 and $0.62 versus Asian Americans and European Americans, respectively.

1 – Oprah Winfrey

Salary: $165 million

Source: Ms. Winfrey owns Harpo, Inc. which owns 50 percent of OWN. OWN which has operated in the red since its inception is estimated to break even this fiscal year. Thankfully, Ms. Winfrey still profits greatly from syndicated shows under her company such as Dr. Phil and others.

2 – Andre Young

Salary: $110 million

Source: Better known as Dr. Dre, his place as the number two spot is due to a one-off moment where HTC paid $300 million for a majority stake in the company that operates the headphones that carry his name Beats By Dr. Dre. Mr. Young owned one-third of the company at the time of the sale.

3 – Tyler Perry

Salary: $105 million

Source: Movies

4 – LeBron James

Salary: $53 million

Source: Miami Heat and endorsements

5 – R. Rihanna Fenty

Salary: $53 million

Source: Music and endorsements

6- Kobe Bryant

Salary: $50 million

Source: Los Angeles Lakers and endorsements

7 – Sean Combs

Salary: $45 million

Source: Endorsements, Clothing, Marketing

8 – Floyd Mayweather

Salary: $40 million

Source: Boxing

9 – Beyonce Carter

Salary: $40 million

Source: Music, endorsements, clothing

10 – Shawn Carter

Salary: $38 million

Source: Music, endorsements, marketing, invest

Source: Forbes