Mellody Hobson (born April 3, 1969) is the Co-CEO, President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ariel Investment Trust, a Chicago-based investment firm that specializes in small and mid-capitalized stocks based in the United States. Mellody currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and a director of JPMorgan Chase.
Early Life and Education
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Mellody is the youngest daughter of a single mother to six children. Her mother, Dorothy Ashley, renovated apartments and condos in old and sometimes abandoned buildings. She grew up in poverty, and that experience drove her as a child to want to understand money.
She graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago in 1987 and from Princeton University in 1991.
Mellody earned her AB from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Relations and Public Policy. She also received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, St. Mary’s College, William & Mary, and the University of Southern California. In 2019, she was awarded the university’s highest honor, the Woodrow Wilson Award, presented annually to a Princeton graduate whose career embodies a commitment to national service.
Joining Ariel Investments
During a series of Princeton recruiting events in Chicago, John Rogers Jr. founder of Ariel Investments (along with the American venture capitalist Richard Missner) helped successfully persuade Melody to attend the university. Rogers then hired Mellody to work at Ariel as an intern during the summer after her sophomore year. After a key introduction from Rogers, Mellody spent the next summer at global investment management company T. Rowe Price as its first research undergrad intern. Mellody graduated from Princeton with offers to work full-time at other Wall Street firms, but she chose to drop out of interviewing and instead join Ariel. The day that Mellody began working for Ariel after college, the company managed $1.5 billion. Mellody was employee number 18. 1
In 1991, Mellody Hobson joined Ariel Investments as a summer intern at 22 years old—America’s first Black-owned mutual fund firm founded by John Rogers Jr. in 1983. She started out as a marketing associate in the company and rose to become the firm’s senior vice president and director of marketing . In May 2008 at 31, she was named as president of Ariel Investments.
With over $16.2 billion in assets under management, the firm serves individual investors and 401(k) plans through its no-load Ariel Mutual Funds and manages separate accounts for institutional clients. Melody joined Ariel Investments in 1991 after graduating from Princeton University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Relations and Public Policy.
As Co-CEO, Mellody is responsible for management, strategic planning and growth for all areas of Ariel Investments outside of research and portfolio management.
Mellody currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and a director of JPMorgan Chase. She previously served as DreamWorks Animation’s Chairman, helping facilitate the company’s sale. Mellody was also a long-standing board member of the Estée Lauder Companies and is deeply committed to a number of philanthropic endeavours. She serves as chair of After School Matters, a non-profit that provides Chicago teens with high-quality, out-of-school time programs.
She is vice chair of World Business Chicago; co-chair of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art; and a board member of the George Lucas Education Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. She is also on the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Mellody is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees, and serves on the executive committee of the Investment Company Institute.
In 2021, Ariel Investments launched “Project Black” with a mission to scale sustainable minority-owned businesses that can serve as Tier 1 suppliers to Fortune 500 companies. The project aims to close the racial wealth gap by generating jobs, economic grown and equality within underrepresented groups.
Ariel Alternatives, the company’s first private-equity subsidiary, which Hobson co-founded, closed its first fund, Project Black, in February with $1.45 billion in commitments. The fund aims to scale sustainable, minority-owned businesses to serve as suppliers of choice to Fortune 500 companies.
- In 2017, she became the first African-American woman to head The Economic Club of Chicago.
- In December 2020, Mellody was named the chairwoman of Starbucks Corp., the first black woman to be chairperson of an S&P 500 company.
- In a deal worth $4.65 billion with the Denver Broncos, Mellody became the first Black
woman part-owner of a team in the history of the National Football League.
- In 2001, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland named Mellody Hobson a Global Leader of Tomorrow (GLT)
- In 2002, Esquire magazine named Mellody as one of “America’s Best and Brightest” emerging leaders.
- In 2004, Time magazine & CNN identified her as one of 25 business influentials setting the global standards for management, ethics, marketing and innovation.
- In 2023, She was named as one of Barron’s 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance
In 2013, Mellody Hobson got married to Star Wars creator George Lucas at Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California. On August 2013, they welcomed their daughter Everest Hobson Lucas, born via surrogacy.
Mellody enjoys running, swimming and exercising.