Sunday, January 27, 2002

Richard Coleman

VP taking Onyx to the crest

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        About two years ago, Richard O. Coleman left his fast-track job at Gradison McDonald Investments to be the executive vice president of Onyx Capital Ventures.

        The Avondale native, who graduated from Walnut Hills High School and now lives in Mount Lookout, has never looked back. Two years from now, he plans on taking Onyx Capital Ventures to the crest of the list of African-American-owned companies.

        Onyx, based in Chicago, was founded by chairman and chief executive Jeffery Larry — another Walnut Hills graduate and a lifelong friend.

        The firm, a merchant banking and venture-capital firm that creates or invests in other minority-owned firms, has a grand design.

        “One or two acquisitions we have planned could vault us to number two or three on the Black Enterprise 100 list,” Mr. Coleman says.

        When it comes to formal and informal links with the region's power elite, Mr. Coleman must measure his connections with an oscilloscope — the man has some juice.

        Among the boards he serves on:

        • Cincinnati Museum Center.

        • Northern Kentucky University Foundation.

        • Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

        • Maketewah Country Club in Bond Hill, where he says he carries an 8 handicap.

        Are African-Americans making headway at the upper end of the economic scale?

        No doubt, Mr. Coleman says, although he wonders whether it matches the pace of the majority community.

        “In the 1990s, we had one of the greatest expansions in our history,” he said. “Everybody was making a lot of money.”

        Onyx's mission is to develop companies large enough to provide goods, services and materials to Fortune 500 firms. It's a challenge.

        “When you look at the majority of minority business enterprises, 95 percent have under a million dollars in annual revenues,” he said. “Ninety percent of the companies that deal with Fortune 500 firms have over $100 million in revenues — that's the conundrum.”


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