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June 25 (Bloomberg) -- After a hamstring injury forced Eugene A. Profit to hang up his cleats and retire from the NFL in 1991, the Yale University graduate set his sights on making a name for himself on the Wall Street playing field.
Instead of looking up to rough-tackling NFLers as idols, Reginald F. Lewis, the first black billionaire in the U.S., became his role model. Lewis, who died of brain cancer in 1993, is known for his TLC Group’s $985 million leveraged buyout of Beatrice International Foods in 1987.
“It was impressive to see that an African-American business man had achieved that level of success working with Michael Milken in mergers and acquisitions,” Profit, 46, a former Washington Redskins cornerback, said by phone from his Silver Spring, Maryland office. “It was an inspiration, and he provided a road map of possibilities.”
Today, he manages a more than $2 billion investment portfolio as president and chief executive officer of Profit Investment Management, started in 1996 with $100,000. His clients include the New York Teachers’ and State Retirement funds, Boeing Co. and the San Francisco City and County Retirement systems.
The Reginald F. Lewis Foundation will honor the second chapter of Profit’s post-Yale career Saturday at its 4th annual gala luncheon. Patrons will dine on ribs and lobster and review silent auction items before honoring Profit, who said he used to get teased and hazed by his former NFL teammates for being a brainy Yalie. (Academy Award-winning actor-singer Jamie Foxx had been scheduled to introduce Profit, but a family matter forced him to cancel his appearance).
Loida Nicolas Lewis, the foundation’s chairman, said it was fitting that the organization was honoring a former athlete who had become an investment manager.
“Eugene was injured and couldn’t continue football, and he told me that my husband inspired him to go into finance,” Loida Lewis, Reginald Lewis’ wife, said by phone. “So there is a lot of similarity between them in terms of establishing a plan A and a plan B for their careers.”
The son of working-class parents, Lewis entered Virginia State University on a football scholarship in 1961. After graduating from Harvard Law in 1968, he practiced corporate law in New York. Lewis started the foundation in 1987 and donated $3 million to Harvard Law School in 1992.
Hall of Fame
The money raised from the sold-out event will help the charity meet its goal of qualifying for a $1 million challenge grant from the Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Family Foundation. Harvard Law School professor Frank E. A. Sander also will be honored with the Millennium Member Award for his role in shaping Lewis’ career.
A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and raised in California, Profit studied economics at Yale. He also was a track and field standout, setting the school record for the 60- yard dash and the long jump. After leaving the Redskins and investing in a bakery, Profit became a financial consultant at Baltimore-based asset manager Legg Mason Inc. before starting his own company.
Profit said he was on a private plane headed to a celebrity golf tournament earlier this year when Loida Lewis called and told him he had been selected to be the foundation’s honoree.
“I didn’t make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I made this hall of fame,” Profit said about the charity’s past honoree list which includes hip-hop mogul Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs. “I have been operating under the radar, and I didn’t think of myself as being that kind of honoree, so I’m completely flattered.”
--Editors: Daniel Billy, Laurie Muchnick.
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