While Black CEOs are becoming more commonplace as years go on, they’re still a relatively rare phenomenon in the grand scheme of things.
According to Fortune, less than one percent of all companies throughout the country have a Black leader at the helm. In the entire history of the Fortune 500 list, there have only been 18 CEOs in total who have identified as Black — and the peak number on the Fortune 500 list was in 2012 when six Black men made the list.
The numbers get even bleaker when the gender factor is weighed in. Until 2016, only one Black woman helmed a Fortune 500 company — and history was made when two Black women became CEOs of major national corporations.
And these numbers are despite the fact that Black people make up about 13 percent of the American population.
The good news is, things are starting to look up (albeit ever so slowly). In June 2021, it was announced that not one, but two, Black women became CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (Roz Brewer of Walgreens Boots Alliance and Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA). And several Black professionals have given advice about how companies can diversify their workforces so these numbers can become more proportional to the existing population.
“In business, we set targets on everything. Only in the area of diversity have I seen CEOs chronically say, ‘We’re working on it,'” said Mellody Hobson-Lucas, one of the wealthiest Black women in America, and one of the few Black women married to an American billionaire (“Star Wars” creator George Lucas). “Already, a few companies, including Microsoft, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson have gone that route, but they remain the rare exceptions.”
Nonetheless, in an effort to celebrate the wins where we can get them, let’s take a look at some of the richest Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in America, in 2021.
Editorial Note: The net worths mentioned in this piece are speculative estimates based on various online sources.
Roger Ferguson, ex-TIAA CEO
The former CEO of TIAA has a valuable net worth based on the public disclosure of many of his stock trades and consultancy salaries. Ferguson owns more than 1,400 shares of Alphabet (Google) stock at a value of more than $19 million. He also makes more than $400,000/year as an independent director at Alphabet Inc.
Marvin Ellison, Lowe's CEO
Lowe’s CEO is one of less than ten Black CEOs on the Fortune 500 list, and Celebrity Net Worth reveals that his net worth is in excess of $30 million. The outlet estimates that his salary is about $1.45 million every year, but he can earn anywhere between $11 and $15 million per year after bonuses. However, his actual net worth may be more along the lines of $18 million, based on the public disclosure of many of his stock trades. He owns more than 2,200 shares of Lowe’s stock worth almost $1 million, and he’s sold more than $6 million in Lowe’s stock over the years.
Kenneth Frazier, ex-Merck CEO
Earlier in 2021, Frazier announced that he would be retiring as the CEO of Merck before the year was over. That, however, hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the wealthiest Black CEOs on this list. As the CEO of Merck, he earned a gob-smacking $21,387,205 in 2014; $17,023,820 in 2015; and $21,781,200 in 2016. In 2017, it was reported that he owned more than 600,000 shares of Merck stock with a value of $37 million. And, according to Yahoo, based on these two facts alone, Frazier’s net worth is estimated to be in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars.
Rene F. Jones, M&T Bank CEO
With an annual salary of more than $5 million a year as the CEO of M&T Bank, plus a stock portfolio containing more than 7,000 shares of M&T stock valued at nearly $7.5 million (and previously sold shares totaling more than $2 million), Rene F. Jones is estimated to have a net worth of more than $15.1 million.
Thasunda Brown Duckett, TIAA CEO
The average salary for a TIAA CEO is $20 million, which was what Roger Ferguson capped out at before he retired. And though Thasunda Brown Duckett hasn’t disclosed her salary as the new CEO of TIAA yet, it’s estimated that she’s receiving as much as Ferguson did. Interestingly, in Duckett’s previous role at Nike, she was making close to $300,000/year
Rosalind Brewer, Walgreen's Boots Alliance CEO
Most of Rosalind Brewer’s estimated net worth doesn’t come from her position as one of the few Black CEOs in America. Her salary is reportedly only $8 million a year — not bad, but certainly nowhere near what the top earner on this list is making. Rather, Brewer’s net worth comes mostly from the public disclosure of many of her stock trades. She owns over 190 units of Starbucks stock, and over the last 13 years, she sold SBUX stock worth over $3,492,372.