Qatar Investment Authority Invests in Ariel’s Project Black Private Equity Fund

Posted on 02/02/2023

Ariel Alternatives, LLC is the private equity subsidiary of Ariel Investments, LLC. Ariel Alternatives formed Project Black, LP, its first private equity initiative that will invest in middle-market companies that are not currently minority owned, as well as existing Black-, Hispanic-owned businesses, with US$ 100 million to US$ 1 billion in revenue. Ariel Alternatives’ advisory affiliate is the Project Black Management Company, LLC. Part of the investment strategy is to transform these businesses into certified minority-owned enterprises that could grow and become suppliers for Fortune 500 companies. It will focus predominately on high-margin sectors that fulfill corporate procurement needs: healthcare, industrial, media and marketing, outsourcing, manufacturing and packaging, technology, transportation and logistics, and financial and professional services.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is investing in the fund. Project Black has received US$ 1.5 billion in commitments from the fund and its co-investors, including QIA, spanning the consumer retail, energy and infrastructure, financial services, healthcare, sovereign and private wealth, and technology sectors. Each investor has committed US$ 100 million to US$ 200 million over the fund’s seven-year investment period.

Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) committed US$ 100 million to Project Black, LP on January 18, 2022. In February 2021, JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to commit up to US$ 200 million to be co-invested alongside Project Black for future transactions.

The Co-Founders of Ariel Alternatives are Leslie A. Brun and Mellody Hobson. Brun serves as the Chairman and CEO of Ariel Alternatives and leads the Project Black team. Brun is the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Hamilton Lane. Mellody Hobson is the wife of George Lucas who is known for the film franchises of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In April 2022, Project Black acquired Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Communications, LLC, a U.S. communications provider for people who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing, at an enterprise value of US$ 1.3 billion. Ariel Alternatives acquired 52.5% of Sorenson’s common equity from existing shareholders, including Blackstone Credit, a fund managed by Franklin Mutual Advisers, and private credit accounts managed by KKR. Prior to acquisition, just 3% of Sorenson’s senior leadership team and board of directors were comprised of minorities. Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor to Ariel Alternatives on fund formation. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Greenberg Traurig, LLP served as advisors on the Ariel’s acquisition of Sorenson. The McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility’s research and insights helped inform the Project Black strategy.

Note: Project Black’s other limited partners and co-investors include: AmerisourceBergen Corporation, Amgen Inc., Ballmer Group (family office of Steve Ballmer), Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Merck & Co., Inc., NextEra Energy, Inc., Nuveen, the asset manager of TIAA, Salesforce, Inc., Synchrony Financial (co-investor), Truist Financial Corporation (co-investor), and Walmart Inc.

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