Last week the Washington Post ran a profile of the downfall of Rodney P. Hunt which I found to be extremely sad but an all too common story of what happens when some Black people come into a large sum of money. What makes this story stick out more is that this Mr. Hunt was not your typical athlete, rapper or entertainer who blows his fortune; he was a successful entrepreneur. However, even with his successful business experience he still found a way to throw away his wealth on status symbols and foolish business ventures.
Rodney Hunt was the cofounder of RS Information Systems (RSIS), one of the nation’s most successful Black owned government contracting firms. At its height in 2005 RSIS employed over 1,700 people and generated $363 million in revenues. In 2007, the year RSIS was sold, Mr. Hunt’s net worth was estimated to be more than $250 million.
What would you do with $250 million…or even half that? Retire? Build a foundation? Give back to your alma mater? Give to your church? Collect cars? Buy a boat? Maybe travel? Do all of the above? Perhaps if you are a true entrepreneur you would start another business. That’s what Mr. Hunt did, and with at least tens of millions of dollars and experience creating and running a successful business how could it go wrong?
Well the first step in Mr. Hunt’s downfall was perhaps his decision to build a 20,000 sq ft home at a cost of $23,000,000; a home so over the top and ostentatious that it was featured on MTV’s Teen Cribs. The home is now scheduled to be sold at auction due to Mr. Hunt defaulting on a $9.4 million loan from Bank of America. You would think Mr. Hunt would’ve had the resources to pay cash upfront for the home. Or maybe a “simpler” $5 million or $10 million dollar home would have been a better choice.
Maybe the second mistake was deciding at 51 years old you could become the next music mogul. Launching RPH Entertainment and signing up local rappers (including your son A Kid Named Breezy and another rapper named Big Pokey) to your record label seems like an odd second act. Perhaps releasing the album “Money, Cars, Clothes and Hoes” is a bit stranger and not at all reflective of a man that ran one the nation’s most successful black owned IT businesses.
If the first two ventures were not creative enough ways to blow a fortune, perhaps partnering and creating a clothing line is. Currency Clothing seems like a great excellent way to burn through cash, especially for a person that probably know little to none about the world of fashion. Stranger still is the decision to partner and create designer jewelry, including custom grills and gaudy pendants and chains. Again, I would suspect a person that made their fortune in government IT contracts to know little about the world of jewelry.
I will invite you to read more of the Washington Post’s expose to get further details of the tidal wave of creditors and additional failed businesses that have followed Mr. Hunt since he sold RSIS. You can also read there about his penchant for “exaggerating the truth” in regards to his education and personal achievements among other things.
What I find most shockingly sad is someone who you would think would be an excellent example of a successful Black entrepreneur turns out to be your stereotypical story off what ‘successful’ Black people do with money: spend it all away on material items and nonsensical business ventures. Some of the time you can cut an athlete of rapper some slack because they come from a background that provides them virtually no exposure as to how to properly save and invest their money. However in Mr. Hunt’s case you would expect a higher level of financial and business sophistication.
You would think that a man who cofounded a business that did hundreds of millions of dollars in business with the federal government would not follow in the footsteps of MC Hammer. You would think that he would think the idea of him running a hip hop label, an urban fashion line and designing diamond grills for rappers would be absurdly preposterous propositions. You would think his business acumen would be a little bit higher.
On a broader point it frustrates me that so much Black talent limit themselves, they only see sports, fashion and entertainment as business avenues when there are infinite other ways to make a dollar. It frustrates me more that Mr. Hunt was a prime example as to an entrepreneur who built a successful business outside of those stereotypical domains and after his success he chose to go backwards and blow it all away in those very same stereotypical industries. He chose to be flashy and chase fame over finding comfort in protecting and growing his substantial wealth.
My bet is Mr. Hunt will be file for bankruptcy sometime in the next 12 months. Whether he does or not, the story of Rodney P. Hunt is a sad, sad, sad one.