Ariel Investments



Chicago, IL


Mutual Fund Company




John Rogers, Jr.

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Ariel Investments is the first Black-founded mutual fund in the U.S. and claims to be the largest minority-owned investment fund in the U.S. 1 It was founded by John Rogers in 1983 and holds $14.9 billion in assets. 2 Ariel is headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. 3

Ariel’s leadership is closely connected to left-leaning philanthropies and Democratic politics. Founder John Rogers and board member Valerie Jarrett have deep and longstanding ties to former President Barack Obama and sit on the board of his Foundation. 4 Ariel co-CEO Mellody Hobson also founded Ariel Alternatives to invest in minority-owned businesses that could supply Fortune 500 companies. 5


Ariel Investments practices what founder John Rogers calls “active patience.” The firm searches for small and medium-sized stocks in which other funds are not investing. Once a stock is acquired, it typically holds the stock for five years, much longer than other mutual funds. The flagship fund is the Ariel Fund, which has earned a 10.5 percent annual return since 1986. 6

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Ariel’s leadership is vocal about encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) promotion in the companies in which it invests. Ariel monitors the diversity of company leadership for firms it invests in, and reports that more than 55 companies in its portfolio have added minorities to their boards following Ariel’s involvement. 7

In 2022, Ariel surveyed 151 Black, Latino, and Latina corporate board members and nearly 5,000 workers to measure the progress of DEI initiatives in the organizations they lead. Ninety percent of those polled said their organization’s board was more racially diverse than five years prior, but a majority of workers said their company’s DEI efforts were motivated by public relations. Ariel stated this could be due to “a lack of information sharing and a disconnect.” 8

Ariel Alternatives

In 2021, Hobson founded Ariel Alternatives, a private-equity firm to invest in mid-size minority-owned companies, and to transform non-minority-owned companies into certified minority businesses. This infusion of capital is meant to grow the chosen companies so they can provide business-supply-chain services to Fortune 500 companies. 9

Ariel Alternatives’s first venture is Project Black; in April 2022, Project Black acquired Sorenson, a communications provider for the deaf, for $1.3 billion. At the time, only 3 percent of Sorenson’s senior leadership team and board of directors were minorities. As of 2024, that number is 43 percent. Sorenson also appointed a Chief Impact Officer to push ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals at the company. 10

In February 2023, Ariel announced a successful funding campaign of $1.45 billion for Project Black. The Project is co-funded by several large corporations and investment firms, including Amerisource Bergen, Amgen, Walmart, and Nuveen, the asset manager for TIAA, a retirement fund. Project Black will pursue 6-10 companies with less than $1 billion in revenue, in sectors that supply corporate needs such as health care, media, manufacturing and financial services. In 2023, Ariel bought media company My Code, which publishes Spanish-language newspapers El Diario and La Opinion. The Wall Street Journal described this move as part of Ariel’s broader effort to create a portfolio of minority-owned suppliers to large corporations. 11

Ariel Community School

In 1996, co-CEOs Hobson and Rogers co-founded the Ariel Community School on the South Side of Chicago. It is a public school focused on financial education, and the student body is 99 percent Black. Hobson says that the school was founded to address a wealth gap between white people and minorities with respect to financial prosperity and investing. 12


Notable Board Members

In 2016, Arne Duncan was appointed to the Ariel board. Duncan served as Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015, where he pushed for $40 billion to shore up teacher salaries as part of the 2009 stimulus package. 13 Towards the end of his time in the administration, he angered teachers’ union leadership by advocating for changes to teacher tenure. 14 Since leaving the Administration, Duncan has joined the boards of several left-leaning grantmaking organizations, including Emerson Collective, Luminos Fund, and Communities in Schools. 15

Valerie Jarrett joined the board in 2017. 16 She worked for decades in Chicago’s political apparatus, working as the chief executive officer of the Habitat Company in Chicago, the Commissioner of Planning and Development for the city of Chicago, and the deputy chief of staff for then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D). She has been involved in several high-profile boards, including the Chicago Stock Exchange, University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees, University of Chicago Board of Trustees, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Board. Jarrett served as senior advisor to President Obama from 2009 to 2017. 17 Since leaving the White House in 2017, she has been active on corporate and nonprofit boards, including When We All Vote, a voter registration organization founded by Michelle Obama and funded by the New Venture Fund. 18


Mellody Hobson is co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments, and chair of Ariel Investment Trust. She is responsible for management, strategic planning, and growth at Ariel. Before her appointment to co-CEO, she was president of Ariel for nearly 20 years. Hobson is chair of the board of Starbucks Corporation and sits on the board of JPMorgan Chase. She also led the sale of DreamWorks Animation to NBC Universal in 2016 as chairwoman of the Board. 19 20

Hobson and her husband, filmmaker George Lucas, lead the Hobson Lucas Family Foundation. 21 This private grantmaking foundation has made large gifts to left-leaning causes, including $5 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and $250,000 to Planned Parenthood in 2016. 22


John W. Rogers, Jr. is founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Ariel Investments; his primary role is managing Ariel’s investment portfolios. Rogers is a Chicago native, and his parents were prominent fixtures in the African-American community when he was growing up. His father, John W. Rogers, Sr., was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of African-American pilots in the U.S. military. After the war he co-founded a law firm and served as a Cook County Judge. Rogers’s mother, Jewel C. Stradford Lafontant, was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School and first woman and first African-American to serve as U.S. Deputy Solicitor General. She also served in multiple Republican administrations, in the Department of State and United Nations. 23

Rogers has said that “Our capitalist democracy is the best system ever invented.” 24 However, he is also a major contributor to left-wing political campaigns and racially motivated initiatives. In 2008, the Wall Street Journal called him a confidant of then-President-elect Barack Obama. 25 He co-chaired Obama’s 2009 inauguration and sits on the Obama Foundation’s board, along with Ariel board member Valerie Jarrett. Hobson and Rogers bundled $1.5 million for the 2012 Obama campaign. 26

He also sits on the board of Nike and the New York Times Company. He formerly sat on the board of McDonald’s. Rogers is also the vice chair of the board of trustees of the University of Chicago. 27


  1. Princeton Athletic Communications. “Former Men’s Basketball Captain Rogers ‘80 Wins Woodrow Wilson Award.” November 8, 2007. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  2. “About Us.” Ariel Investments. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  3.  “Home Page”. Ariel Investments. Accessed February 9, 2024.
  4. “Our Team.” Ariel Investments. Accessed February 9, 2024.
  5. Jennifer Altmann. “Facing Down Financial Inequity.” Princeton Alumni Weekend. January 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  6. Jennifer Altmann. “Facing Down Financial Inequity.” Princeton Alumni Weekend. January 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  7. Jennifer Altmann. “Facing Down Financial Inequity.” Princeton Alumni Weekend. January 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  8. Banking Exchange Staff. “Ariel Investments finds Fortune 500 firms firms struggling to act on diversity.” March 1, 2022. Accessed February 9, 2024.
  9. Jennifer Altmann. “Facing Down Financial Inequity.” Princeton Alumni Weekend. January 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  10. “Ariel Investments Closes Inaugural $1.45 Billion ‘Project Black’ Fund with Partners and Co-Investors.” February 1, 2023. Accessed February 9, 2024.
  11. Chris Cumming. “Ariel Investments Buys Multicultural Media Company My Code.” Wall Street Journal. November 30, 2023. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  12. Jennifer Altmann. “Facing Down Financial Inequity.” Princeton Alumni Weekend. January 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  13.  Alyson Klein. “Remember when K-12 Education Got a $100 Billion Windfall From Washington?”. EdWeek. February 18, 2019. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  14. Liana Loewus, Stephen Sawchuk. “NEA Calls for Secretary Duncan’s Resignation.” EdWeek. July 4, 2014. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  15. “Arne Duncan.” Luminos Fund. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  16. Gail Marks Jarvis. “Former Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett Joins Ariel Investments Board.” Chicago Tribune. March 27th, 2017. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  17. [1] Jeffrey Immelt. “Valerie Jarrett.” The 2013 Time 100. April 18, 2013. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  18. “Valerie Jarrett talks protests, police reform and racial equality (Full stream 6/11).” Washington Post YouTube Channel. Uploaded June 11, 2020. Accessed February 2, 2024.
  19. [1] “The Executive Leadership Council. “”The Executive Leadership Council to Honor Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments and Chair of Ariel Investment Trust.” PR Newswire. September 12, 2023. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  20. “Mellody Hobson.” Ariel Investments. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  21. “Hobson Lucas Family Foundation.” InfluenceWatch. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  22.  “Hobson Lucas Fmily Foundation.” Return for Organization Exempt from INcome Tax. 2017. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  23. Michael H. Schill. “John W. Rogers Honors His Trailblazing Parents, who Started Their Careers at the Law School.” The University of Chicago Law School. October 26, 2012. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  24. Asutosh Padhi. “Overcoming pessimism with patience with John Rogers.” The Exchange. February 2, 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024.
  25. Diya Gullapalli and Joe Barrett. “Fund Manager has Obama’s Ear.” November 8, 2008. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  26. Hazel Bradford. “Ariel execs bundle $1.5 million for Obama campaign.” Pensions and Investments. April 30, 2012.
  27. Steve Ruxton. “John W. Rogers, Jr. Founder of the country’s first Black-owned mutual fund company.” WGN Radio. February 1, 2024. Accessed February 8, 2024.
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Ariel Investments

200 E. Randolph Street, Suite 2900
Chicago, IL