The Carters (Shawn “Jay-Z” and Beyoncé , the Smiths (Will and Jada), the Wests (Kanye and Kim) and the Obamas (Barack and Michelle) may come top to mind as the most powerful black couples over the past decade. They are brokering deals and laying down the law from Hollywood to the White House. But before Beyoncé was born or Jay-Z could spit raps, there were black couples who were self-made millionaires and billionaires. These power couples created some of the most iconic brands in the black community that are still around 30 to 50 years later—standing the test of time. Here’s a look at our top 10.
- John and Betty Barfield: Barfield Companies. Together with his wife Betty, John Barfield formed the first of many companies, Barfield Cleaning Company, located in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1954. The Barfields sold the company in 1969 to International Telephone and Telegraph Company. John went on to form and sell several additional businesses, including Barfield Building Maintenance Company (acquired by Unified Building Maintenance Services, Inc.) and Barfield Manufacturing Company (sold to Masco Tech Industries). In 1977, he incorporated John Barfield & Associates to provide technical staffing services to the Big Three automakers. In 1981 he turned it over to his son Jon, changing the name to The Bartech Group in 1984. The company became one of the nation’s first minority-owned and operated firms specializing in technical staffing. Today, under the leadership of the Barfields’ other son Dave, Bartech is an industry-leading professional services firm managing more than 26,000 workers daily and billing over $2.5 billion in annualized spend.
- Bernard and Valerie Beal: M.R. Beal & Company. After successful Wall Street careers Bernard and Valerie Lancaster-Beal launched New York-based M.R. Beal & Co. in 1988. The company’s structure was based on a business plan that Bernard had written eight years earlier while studying for an M.B.A. at Stanford University. M.R. Beal & Company became one of the nation’s leading minority-owned investment banks specializing in municipal and corporate finance, with Bernard serving as chief executive while Valerie was the firm’s senior vice president and director of strategic planning. At its peak, M.R. Beal managed municipal financings totaling in excess of $400 billion, and served as financial advisor on over 60 financings worth in excess of $7 billion. In 1999, M.R. Beal expanded its equity research and participated in over $75 billion of equity and corporate debt financings. Blaylock & Co, a leading minority-owned investment bank and financial services firm, acquired M.R. Beal in 2014.
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