Sorry Kanye! Robert F. Smith Is Back On Top As The Richest Black Person In America

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Sorry Kanye, you are no longer the richest black person in America. And that also means you’re no longer the richest self-made black person in history. You’re still extremely rich though! But not quite as rich as private equity software tycoon Robert F. Smith.

For much of the last year, Kanye was the richest black person in America thanks largely to his incredibly successful Yeezy brand. Kanye maintained that lead even after Kim Kardashian filed for divorce, thanks to a rock-solid prenup the couple maintained throughout the marriage.

At the time we announced he had claimed the #1 spot, Kanye West’s $6.6 billion net worth topped Vista Equity Partners’ Robert F. Smith’s net worth by $100 million.

Unfortunately for Mr. West, the last six months have been extremely good to Mr. Smith. Smith’s net worth has increased $2 billion in the last few months alone and currently sits at…

$9 billion

At $9 billion, Robert displaces Mike Adenuga as the second-richest black person on the planet.

The richest black person on the planet is Nigerian Oil magnate Aliko Dangote whose $16 billion fortune makes him the richest person on the continent of Africa and the 120th richest person in the world.

richest black person in america

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Who is Robert F. Smith?

Robert F. Smith was born on December 1, 1962 in Denver, Colorado.

As the now-legendary story goes, while still a high school student Smith applied for an internship at Bell Labs that was designed for juniors and seniors in college. He would not take no for an answer. He called the human resources director at the company every single day for two weeks straight. Then for the next five months, he only called on Mondays. His luck turned when an intern Bell Labs who had been recruited from M.I.T. didn’t show up, leaving them in a bind. The H.R. director remembered Smith and called him with the job offer. He accepted and spent that summer developing a reliability test for semiconductors.

After finishing high school, Robert earned a B.S. from Cornell in Chemical Engineering. He then earned an MBA from Columbia University. He continued his internship at Bell Labs during summer and winter breaks.

When he completed his education, he headed to Wall Street to work for Goldman Sachs. He eventually became the co-head of enterprise systems and storage investment banking, where he advised on $50 billion in technology merger and acquisition deals.

Robert left Goldman Sachs in 2000 after six years and founded Vista Equity Partners. Over the last two decades, Vista has grown to control $75 billion assets under management.

Unlike most private equity firms that are desperate to find the next brand new hotshot startup, Smith’s strategy at Vista is to identify middle-aged software and tech companies that have recurring revenue.

As just one example, in 2018 Vista acquired a company called Mindbody for $1.9 billion. Mindbody produces cloud-based online scheduling software for health and wellness studios. If you’ve signed up for a yoga class recently, you probably used a Mindbody-created app. Classpass uses a white-labeled version of Mindbody to manage its class scheduling. All of the health studios that use Mindbody gladly pay a healthy subscription fee to use its services.

Once under Vista’s umbrella, those subscription fees continue to pour in while Vista takes the software management in-house, streamlining and optimizing the technology while also reducing costs.

You may remember Robert F. Smith as the billionaire who announced during his commencement speech at Morehouse College in 2019 that he was eliminating the student loan debt of the entire graduating class. That ended up equating to a roughly $34 million pledge.

Here’s a video of Robert making that surprise announcement. Check out the faces of the people in the background, especially the guy in the bottom left of the screen, at the 18 second mark:

Congrats to Robert F. Smith!

Kanye, can you reach for $10 billion?





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