John W. Rogers Jr.
Chairman, chief executive officer and chief investment
officer, Ariel Capital Management Inc., Chicago
John Rogers was not only one of the youngest people to start a money management firm — he started Ariel Capital Management in 1983, when he was 24 years old — but he also was one of the first minorities to own an investment shop.
His first client was the Municipal Employees' Annuity & Benefit Fund of Chicago, which remains a client today. The plan's initial $3 million investment now is worth $446 million, said veteran consultant Ed Burke, president and co-founder of Becker Burke Associates Inc., Chicago, along with A.G. Becker.
Ariel itself has grown from an initial base of $200,000 in 1983, which Mr. Rogers took from his savings and begged from friends and family, to more than $20 billion, invested in small-cap and midcap U.S. value equities in two retail mutual funds and in separate accounts managed for more than 120 institutional clients.
Mr. Rogers' parents were influential in his career choice: His father started buying stocks for him when he was 12 years old, and his mother provided operational assistance when Ariel first opened its doors.
Mr. Rogers has also been active in political and civic affairs. He was president of the Board of the Chicago Park District for six years and now is chairman of the Chicago Urban League. He's a member of the boards of directors of several companies, including McDonald's Corp. (legend has it that he eats a hamburger and fries every day at the McDonald's restaurant near his office). He also created Ariel Academy, a new school for underprivileged kids in Chicago. The school has a savings and investment curriculum that provides a first-grade class with $20,000 that, by sixth grade, is being invested by the students on behalf of the school's endowment.
Ebony magazine included Mr. Rogers on its list of the 100+ Most Influential Black Americans this year.
"John Rogers has made a terrific contribution to the industry," said Mr. Burke. "He helped to establish what a minority-owned firm should be. He was the first one in the pool, and the others who wanted to learn to swim watched him.
"But John has never emphasized the minority ownership angle. Ariel is a good investment shop, first."