by Christopher A. Daniel
(December 5, 2012 – Atlanta) On December 1, the retired Los Angeles Laker and business visionary Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson was awarded the Urban League of Greater Atlanta’s (ULGA) coveted “Business Champion of the Year” award. As part of the economic and community empowerment organization’s 51st Annual Equal Opportunity Day (EOD) Gala, the powerhouse NBA Hall of Famer, restaurateur, nutritionist, philanthropist, orator, media mogul and commentator hosted a mini-press conference in the Marriott Marquis’ lobby.
The chairman and CEO of his self-titled conglomerate makes it no secret that he will primarily invest time and resources into financial portfolios with bare minimums of $50 to $100 million in investments. Johnson accepted his award alongside Usher’s New Look Foundation, Macy’s, Wells Fargo, Herman J. Russell Family, R. Lawrence Ashe, Esq., Ludacris’ business partner Chaka Zulu and ULGA’s Young Professionals. Johnson is acutely aware that his stellar entrepreneurial ventures have raised the bar for American enterprise and urban development. “We’re looking to go back into urban America and create jobs,” Johnson says. “We’re always looking for opportunity. The good thing is we have the money. We have to do our homework and research in order to make a big impact.”
Johnson has leveraged all of his assets including his legendary relationship with Larry Bird, which hit the Broadway stage this year. He has stakes in sports franchises, a personalized credit card, scholarship funds, a 501c3 organization and various real estate holdings throughout America. Johnson says the objective is to create sustainable business models that will stimulate the economy and encourage self-sufficiency. “I’m willing to help out anyone trying to do something good. We can at least give expertise,” Johnson says. “We’ll provide you with the knowledge on how to do it even if we don’t invest in it.”
The one time late night talk show host acquired VIBE, Soul Train, UPTOWN Magazine and 25 radio stations. Johnson says New York’s WBLS is now the number two station in its market. He was set to bid on JET Magazine , but the deal fell through. “If it’s the right fit at the right price, then I’ll take a look at it,” Johnson says. “You got to have an exit strategy. I’m about making money. If you want to make money, you got to get with the big boys and make it nationwide.”
Johnson’s latest venture, the Atlanta-based ASPiRE Network, is set to go under Time Warner Cable in the first quarter of 2013. The network started airing reruns of past shows but would like to include more original programming. Johnson takes cues from Black Entertainment Television’s younger demographic and TV One’s older target audience to determine his African American niche market. He adds that Time Warner will have ASPiRE in 20 million homes. “Content is important to us,” he says. “Our research shows that people want wholesome programming. We’re a family driven network trying to bring the family back to the television together.”
Just the night before, Johnson attended a Christmas tree lighting in Miami honoring individuals who succumbed to HIV/AIDS. Coincidentally on the same day as World AIDS Day, Johnson, reminding the press of his announcing that he was HIV+ 21 years ago, knows that he lives a prosperous and successful life beyond sports and a life threatening illness. “I don’t know where I would be without God’s blessings,” he says.
Christopher A. Daniel is a pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.