Magic Johnson is helping a historic Black-founded insurance company is transition into a new era.
Alonzo Herndon, a formerly enslaved man, created Atlanta Life Insurance Company in 1905, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The business was lucrative, making Herndon the first Black millionaire in Atlanta and growing Atlanta’s Black business scene, with Atlanta Life having a major presence in the city’s Sweet Auburn district during the 20th century.
Photo by Atlanta Life Insurance Company
However, a century has gone by. And for more than a decade, the business has been on the decline. In 2010, the company sold its Auburn Avenue headquarters. And in 2012, they relocated entirely.
While the company still has $350 million in assets, they were still in desperate need of restructuring. And now business mogul and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has stepped in, intent on turning around the 120 year old business.
“Anytime a Black man can go from slavery to becoming a Black millionaire here in Atlanta, to become an entrepreneur, it’s a story that should be told and I’m glad that we’re able to take this historical brand and company and revitalize it, and really bring it back to the people of Georgia,” said Johnson at a recent re-launch event.
Johnson has now acquired a stake as a beneficial owner in Atlanta Life Insurance through Atlanta Life Holdings, a Black-owned insurance holding group that Johnson is a part of.
Not only will he serve as an owner. But the Herndon Foundation nonprofit will also hold a minority stake in the company. The former pro basketball player said he discovered the company through fellow business man and entertainer, Killer Mike. Now Johnson’s EquiTrust insurance company, which already holds $25.7 billion in assets, will include Atlanta Life in its portfolio.
Atlanta Life Insurance is the only remaining Black-founded and owned insurance company in the country.
For the past 15 years, the insurance company has been providing employee benefits for employers. But Atlanta Life executive VP Ryan Smith says they plan to head back into the retail market under EquiTrust. Many from Atlanta’s Black influencer community came out to celebrate the new acquisition, including Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, entertainer Kandi Burruss, record executive Jermaine Dupri, and restaurateur Pinky Cole.
The latest acquisition comes on the heels of Johnson’s ownership stake in the Washington Commanders. Johnson continues to expand his business footprint as an example of the power of Black entrepreneurs.
Photo by Lev Radin