Banking, coffee, leadership and a ‘Star Wars’ connection: Meet new Broncos co-owner Mellody Hobson
The best answer as to how the Rob Walton-led ownership group will fare in its stewardship of the Broncos is this: We don’t know.
But what we do know is that by having Mellody Hobson as a part of the group, this group reduces its risk of falling victim to the scourge of groupthink that can often undermine the potential success of the operation.
Between Rob Walton, Greg Penner and Carrie Walton Penner, the vast majority of their net worth comes from Walmart. Walton was Walmart’s chairman until 2015; Penner replaced him.
Hobson, on the other hand, has a diverse business and creative background. Her resume draws from the fields of banking, investments, entertainment, food service. Even her marriage to filmmaking titan George Lucas of “Star Wars” renown brings another layer to her perspective.
Hobson’s lengthiest association is with Ariel Investments, which manages $15 billion in assets. She became president of Ariel in 2000 at age 31, and since 2019 has been one of the company’s co-CEOs. This was the launching pad for a resume that includes:
- Directorship at JPMorgan Chase
- Chairman of the Board of DreamWorks Animation
- Board member, Estée Lauder Companies
- Chairwoman of the board, Starbucks
She assumed her role at Starbucks in 2020, making her the first Black woman to become the chairperson of a company in the Standard & Poor’s 500.
Assuming a role in the Broncos’ ownership group satisfies a desire expressed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis: minority representation in the group assuming control of the team.
That works well with one a cause near to her heart: ensuring that executive ranks better represent the diverse populace served by businesses.
Accomplishing this starts simply, she said in 2020: by counting.
“I love the saying that math has no opinion,” she said as part of a keynote speech of a 2020 virtual summit held by Variety, a newspaper and website that covers the entertainment industry.
“By counting by ethnicity and gender, you see where the under-representation is,” she said. You do the C-suite, you do the next level of executives all the way down. There’s no patting yourself on the back, giving some big ethnicity number when 90 percent of your ethnicity comes from the assistant level. That doesn’t work.”
To her, this is another front in an ongoing civil-rights movement that stretches back centuries.
“I almost see this as Civil Rights 3.0 in America. Maybe the Civil War was one version, the 1960s (movement) was another, and this is another,” she said in 2020.. “The 1960s version was around government, government policy of laws and the life. And this is now about corporate America. And what is corporate America going to do?
“It has landed at the feet of corporate America in a very different way than ever before, and there’s no avoiding it because of the viral nature of our society.”
In a way, her presence in the NFL is a step toward the NFL faring better in its diversity efforts.
Because of Hobson, the Walmart Way won’t be the only view represented in the Broncos’ highest corridors of power. And that opens up a horizon of possibilities that one can only begin to conceive. Her influence could allow the Broncos to chart their own business path, independent of the arc of the Arkansas retail giant whose worth funded most of the purchase price.
Hobson won’t have final say, but she will have a guiding voice. She also provides a broad-based wealth of experience across industries that few in the NFL can match.