Earl Graves, Publisher of Black Enterprise

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, May 12, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: The economy taking a toll on businesses owners whether they’re black or white or anything in between. Investors and your own wallets feeling that pinch. Some areas getting harder hit than others. My next guest joins me today to talk about one of those areas. Earl Graves is the publisher of Black Enterprise magazine now out with its thirty-first edition of top black-owned businesses. Good to see you, Earl Graves. How have you been doing?

EARL GRAVES, BLACK ENTERPRISE PUBLISHER: Thank you, thank you. Just fine, just fine.

CAVUTO: Beautiful. Now not so a number of black-owned entities and businesses. I noticed some of the list has shrunk a little bit for anywhere from asset management, investment banking business, that is the same in the white-dominated world too, though, isn’t it?

GRAVES: Absolutely. But if you look at black business overall, that is the top 100, we are up 3 percent, actually, overall. In other words, last year we had $20.3 billion in revenues. And this year we’re talking about 20.9. The Fortune 500 was down about 6 percent. And now what that does say is that when you look at from where we started, we are 150 years behind in the race, we have made some progress.

CAVUTO: I’m sorry, now these are the top five we are looking right now on the screen. They’re all privately-owned concerns. In fact, most on that list are indeed privately-owned. And these are advances from certainly where they were not more than a few years ago. But I want to juxtapose this against white-dominated businesses or those that might make the Fortune 500 list, and by comparison obviously, it is night and day. How do you get people to pay attention to what is happening with African- American business?

GRAVES: Well, first of all, I think we’ve made some progress in this country the way people understand. It seems to me that Mayor Bloomberg knows now when we sit down to talk how we are rebuilding the city, in terms of who is going to get the contracts, he’s going to involve minorities. That is a given. If you go across this country in terms of in the top 100 businesses, four of the CEOs are African-Americans. And as I said to the students at a graduation on Saturday, in a college in Virginia, that is progress. And if you measure this against what we have done, and what is now 30 years of this list, you have to ask yourself, what was happening 30 years ago? We were just in the civil rights movement. It wasn’t that long ago I was riding the back of the bus in my second lieutenant’s uniform so I could die for my country. So if you look no further back than just the late ‘50s all the way to where we are now, there has been progress. And when we can start talking about the first business that we did that was on the top 100, which was Barry Gordy, you remember him, Motown Records, you are still young enough to know that. He did $40 million and that made him number one. Today there are 23 businesses doing over $200 million, and 55 businesses doing over $100 million.

CAVUTO: But your list is different than a lot of the ones we see out of Forbes. You talk about God and family. You talk about being decent and all of that stuff. That doesn’t pop in some of the lists I see, why do you even include it in your opening editor’s note?

GRAVES: Well, first of all, my sense is that there has to be a sense of integrity. And so when I talk to our readership, I don’t make it sound like I wrote and rewrote the New Testament in my publisher’s space, what I did say is that I think that family plays a role in what we do in business.

CAVUTO: Well, were you saying that many in the African-American community don’t pay enough attention to that?

GRAVES: Not at all, if anything it was the contrary. I think we set an example in terms of what we do in the African-American community, look at John Johnson and his daughter Linda, if you look at my own family, three of my sons in the business with me, all three of them all do - I did about that. If you look at Herman Russell, turning over his construction company to his sons and his daughter, told them he’d be sure to do that, then there is no question. If you look at the photo essay we did of the companies and their businesses, what is happening is the second generation of African-Americans are coming into being and having the education, having the background.

CAVUTO: And they’re making inroads.

GRAVES: And they’re making inroads. So again your question is very astute this year as they were last year, but you focus on an area which I think is very important.

CAVUTO: All right. Earl Graves, thank you very much, the issue is out right now, intriguing look at what is happening in a world you don’t often read about. Thank you sir, good seeing you.

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