Guess who the richest African American in the United States is right now. Are you thinking of a Hollywood star? If so, you’re wrong. In fact, his name is Robert F. Smith, and he is far from the Hollywood spotlight.
Robert F. Smith is currently the richest African American in the United States. Most people don’t even know his name or how he earned his fortune. After he was featured on the cover of Forbes in 2015’s richest Americans issue, people starting talking and he grabbed a lot of well-earned attention. So who is Robert F. Smith?
Smith was born on December 1, 1962, in Denver, Colorado. When he was just a baby, his mother, who has a PhD, carried him at the March on Washington in 1963, where Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Smith received his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and interned at Bell Labs. He continued his education, earning his MBA at Columbia University. After graduate school, Smith went into investment banking at Goldman Sachs. During his time there, Smith dealt with billion-dollar companies like Apple and Microsoft.
Smith was eager to continue his success, so he left Goldman in 2000 to start Vista Equity Partners, where he still works today. The company focuses on buying and selling little-known software companies. By the time Smith reached the age of 35, he had made his first million. Not even twenty years later, the businessman made his first billion. According to africanglobe.net, Smith’s company has grown to nearly $16 billion in assets. A London-based private equity tracker confirmed that Vista Equity Partners ranked among the “top 50 most consistent performing buyout fund managers” in the world last year.
Preference for Privacy
Smith has managed to keep both his work and personal life quiet. An article by The Washington Post notes that Smith’s website doesn’t even display an image of him. According to Smith, he prefers it that way so that investors and executives know him for his abilities and not the color of his skin. He enjoyed his life outside the public eye, but that changed drastically when he was featured on the cover of Forbes in 2015. Smith declined to be interviewed for the magazine.
Smith is very rich, but he doesn’t forget to support people in need. As the founding president of Fund II Foundation, he supports nonprofit groups that focus on African American cultures, human rights, music education, and the environment. He told The Washington Post, “We have to do something. We have to do something for our community.” In 2013, Smith privately donated $20 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The founders of the museum didn’t even know his name or face.
Smith enjoys his down time with his family. He is the father of five children, three from a previous marriage and two with his current wife, Hope Dworaczyk, who was a Playboy Playmate. The couple got married in a very lavish ceremony in 2016. The over-the-top wedding included private performances by John Legend, Seal, and Brian McKnight. John Legend sang to the bride as she was walking down the aisle and the couple danced under a custom light that read “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” The couple got married on Italy’s Amalfi coast, which was nothing short of spectacular.
Working to make his billions and juggling a family, Smith is also the Chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, a member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, a Trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco, and a board member for Carnegie Hall. Oh, and he loves to fish.