By Cornell Dews
When I first heard the news that Jay-Z sold 50% stake of Armand De Brignac (Ace of Spades) to the world leader in luxury brand making LVMH I didn’t immediately celebrate. Not just for the obvious reasons like, my bank account still read zero zero zero holdup, without the one in front. My financial setup is a far cry from when Jay Z told us money ain’t a thing. Also, I didn’t know exactly what to applaud. So I asked myself, “how does the culture benefit from this move?” I waited a couple of days until more information was revealed. There has since been reported speculations from reputable sources such as Forbes that Jay Z netted more than $300 million dollars in the deal. That’s fantastic for him. Though I commend him for that savvy business move, that increase in his personal finances didn’t prompt my admiration anymore for him as an artist and a business, man. Instead, it wasn’t until two weeks later when it was reported that Jay Z sold majority ownership in Tidal to Square Inc. For those who don’t know, they own CashApp and created the Square Device allowing credit card transactions to be made by connecting to a mobile device audio jack. Peep this, just two years ago, according to public information, Square Inc. revenue was stated at $4.7 billion dollars. Though successful, TIDAL numbers are miniscule in comparison. So we know what he gave up to Square Inc. (majority stake in TIDAL). What did he gain? And through his gain, how will the culture be impacted?
In addition to compensation, Jay Z gained a board seat. Most people who don’t understand business have no clue how influential a seat on the board is. I know, I know recently a lot of people became financial wizards and started buying “partial” shares of companies using tech apps like Cashapp. And because of that, they now think they are 21st Century Gordon Gekko’s. I’m not a business man to Jay’s caliber, but I’ve studied and am degreed in business, man. Board of Directors are the influencers of any business. They are the decision makers. Some people would argue that they’d prefer to be the head of their own Board of Directors of a company worth $600 million dollars. While someone else, such as Jay Z, would probably like to gain a partner, share responsibilities/expenses/operational costs, still maintain minority ownership, make about $300 million dollars in the sale and take a seat at a table of a company worth several billion dollars. And growing exponentially.
When I learned he was getting a board seat, I immediately looked to see who was on Square Inc.’s board. Not to my surprise at all, like most corporations, there wasn’t a black face in sight. But guess what? Now there is. And who would we rather have sitting at the table representing us? A black man. From Marcy Projects. Brooklyn, New York. A man who faced similar challenges that most black males have encountered and endured in inner city America over the last 50 years. Though he stumbled during his youth, he didn’t succumb and become victim to societal ills that thwarted the lives of so many of us. He maintained, remained solid and sturdy. Now he’s walking into doors that’s been forever locked and bolted to us, taking a seat at tables where his voice matters. Which means our voices matter there. Making money is great, but gaining access is even more important. With access you create your own opportunities and by leaving the door slightly cracked, you also create opportunities and ultimately positive change in the lives of others.
Thank you Jay-Z for entering into the doors that Tupac so eloquently and passionately described us knocking on, before threatening to break down. Thank you for not conforming. Thank you for still representing Hip Hop and for being Hip Hop. And please, continue to overcharge them for what they did to the Cold Crush. Now before I depart, I want to wrap up what we witnessed in a matter of 30 days, to give some perspective. On February 7, 2021, Super Bowl LV (like Luis Vuitton) halftime show was curated by Jay Z. A seat at the table. Approximately two weeks later he did the deal with LVMH. A seat at the table. Did I mention that on the day of that announcement the LVMH stock closed trading at $542.90 per share? That was their 52 week high, until about 2 weeks later when the multi-million dollar TIDAL/Square acquisition was announced and the LVMH stock broke a new high closing at $543.00. Board seat at the table. A true depiction of the term coined by multi-faceted businessman Steve Stoute, “The Tanning of America.” Thank you Jay Z.