Essence Power List: C-Suite Elite

These innovative powerhouses are making their mark across a number of industries
ESSENCE.COM Sep, 12, 2008

1 of 5

Alexis Levi, 43
CEO, general manager and owner, The Las Vegas Stars International Basketball League

The first African-American woman to own a professional basketball franchise within the International Basketball League, Levi manages one of its 21 expansion teams. The four-year-old league, which features teams from the United States, Canada, China and Japan, is rapidly gaining popularity. Once a basketball athlete herself, she grew frustrated at how players often ended their short careers on shaky financial ground after having scored big profits for their teams. Levi made a decision to change the game. This former sports agent and real estate investor reached for the Stars in 2006, using real estate profits and investor capital. She retained 80 percent ownership, selling the balance to friends, family and investors. Levi projects $10 million in revenues in the next five years.
She actively steers her players toward opportunities such as movie deals and endorsements, no matter where they lead. The Las Vegas Stars guard–forward Dajuan Tate, whose 35-point average led him to the All-Star game in the team’s first season, recently inked a sweet deal with the Chinese Basketball Association. —nicole marie richardson

Power Quote: “Power is not defined by money but by the relationships and high-level connections that make deals happen.”

2 of 5

Adriane M. Brown, 48
President and CEO, Transportation Systems, Honeywell International

At a time when gas prices are soaring and environmental concerns are high, Brown has championed the development of green technologies that improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. She heads a $5.1 billion division that manufactures turbocharging technologies as well as everyday automotive products.
The nine-year Honeywell veteran has overseen the opening of technology centers in the Czech Republic and China and a manufacturing plant in India. She also has to keep tabs on more than 12,000 employees globally, along with scores of consumer products, from Prestone Antifreeze/Coolant to Autolite spark plugs to Bendix brake parts. She helps fuel community success through Hometown Solutions, a Honeywell program that focuses on four areas: family safety and security, housing and shelter, science and math education, and humanitarian relief. —sherri mcgee mccovey

Power Quote: “Power is recognizing your own value and knowing how to find it and expand it in others.”

3 of 5

Vicki L. Fuller, 51
Senior vice-president and director of public funds, AllianceBernstein LP

As she travels around the country advising government officials on investing, Fuller is well aware that hundreds of thousands of civil servants are depending on her to make the right moves with their retirement nest eggs. Based in New York City, Fuller and her team are responsible for managing nearly $145 billion in assets, such as employee pensions and 401(k) accounts and other monies for several cities and states. “There is a lot of money at stake,” she says. In some respects “they are like little countries.”
Known for structuring innovative deals, Fuller led a team that implemented a new way of making money for clients by developing and executing more than $2 billion of collateralized bond obligations in 1989. “I was a pioneer in that business where you financed the purchase of a pool of securities by issuing debt and equity against that portfolio,” she explains. “I was always investing in the new frontier of asset classes.” —carolyn m. brown

Power Advice: “Success is never a straight line.”

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Mercedes Walton, 54
Chairman and CEO, Cryo-Cell International

If biotechnology is the key that will open the doorway to new cures in this millennium, stem cells are the master key. “They have the potential ability to regenerate every organ in the human body,” says Walton.
Her specialized blood bank collects and preserves stem cell–rich blood from newborns’ umbilical cords for possible use against as many as 70 diseases, including some types of cancer and anemia. Walton’s 19-year-old Oldsmar, Florida, firm collects the cells from umbilical cord blood and menstrual blood stem cells (as opposed to highly debated human embryos), which may prove useful in treating heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses that hit our communities hard. Since 1992 Cryo-Cell has helped more than 155,000 families bank their newborn’s cord blood, so the idea is catching on. The firm reported $8.7 million in consolidated revenues in the first half of 2008. —tamara e. holmes

Power Mantra: “We will either find a way or we’ll make one.”

5 of 5

Deborah C. Wright, 50
CEO, Carver Bancorp

During one of the toughest times in the banking and housing markets since the Great Depression, Wright facilitated an $11.1 million acquisition of Brooklyn Community Capital Bank to help Carver expand its portfolio, which had historically focused on real estate lending. “We bought ourselves into a new business—small business lending,” she says.
Wright is driven by the desire to provide African-Americans with a bank they can trust, that can help them prosper. Leading up to the current housing crisis, Black borrowers were disproportionately saddled with complicated, high-interest mortgages. But Wright’s loan officers did business differently. In addition to encouraging her staff of 175—in 10 branches and the company’s headquarters—to take time with customers to find the right financial product for each one, Wright promotes financial literacy training through the Carver Community Development Corp. The result? As many lenders struggle with defaults, Carver is steadily raising its dividend and making shareholders happy. “We don’t lend over the Internet,” says Wright. “We don’t lend over the phone. It’s old-fashioned banking.” —philana patterson

Power Advice: “Think about what will make you happy, because ultimately you succeed when you are happy.”

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