The company’s bid will also offer additional investment opportunities in the project for small, Richmond-based minority companies and individuals
By Mark R. Smith, US Correspondent
The Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, which is one of two finalists in the race to build the casino and hotel in Richmond, Va., is moving forward with a bid that features what it calls “one of the largest minority equity investments in Virginia history.”
Cordish has introduced a 50 percent minority partnership team led by prominent Virginia native, businessman and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith that is offering $180 million in direct minority investment for the proposed $600 million Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond resort.
The company’s bid will also offer additional investment opportunities in the project for small, Richmond-based minority companies and individuals. With the total of $360 million of equity investment, Live! will carry half the debt of the competing proposal.
There are numerous advantages” to including so much minority investment in the project, said Joe Weinberg, managing partner and CEO of Cordish Gaming Group. “They are all prominent and highly accomplished people with roots in Virginia. They understand the community and they are not just supporting this project with their personal finances, but also with their time and philanthropic efforts.
To illustrate, Weinberg noted that one of the new minority partners “just made the largest contribution ever to Richmond’s Virginia Union University,” one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States.
He also touched on the importance of having already worked with numerous minority companies at Cordish’s existing gaming properties. “We were able to provide opportunities for dozens of small businesses and contractors on our recently completed $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, with [more than] 50 percent of the project built with minority-owned contractors.”
Weinberg said that approach has long been a cornerstone at Cordish, which has a four-generation history in the development arena and entered the gaming industry in the early 1980s.
In its 110-year history, “our emphasis has always been to find the right partners, rather than to find a certain number of partners,” he said. “For example, in Richmond, Bruce Smith and Emmitt Smith III have worked with us before and know from first-hand experience that we mean what we say and we do what we promise.”
Weinberg emphasized that when Cordish selects people or organizations as partners for projects, it looks “for those who share our vision for the whole effort, not just the financial bottom line. This includes how a project will create new opportunities for local, minority, women and veteran-owned and emerging small business enterprises, provide new sources of support for nonprofits, universities, workforce development programs, and offer new career paths for local residents.”
NFL and the community
That’s part of what got former NFL player Billy McMullen on board. The Richmond native, who grew up in Jackson Ward, much of which was demolished during the construction of Interstate 95. , is appreciative of what Cordish aims to give back to the community.
My grandmother, my father and my family lived through the destruction of Jackson Ward by the building of [Interstate] 95. They had no say and no solution for their own community, a generation of equity destroyed. … when I heard that the City of Richmond voted to allow a casino, I thought it would be a great opportunity for the community to be able to come up with their own solutions to critical problems through a fund from a portion of the casino revenue.
“The Cordish team has done just that,” said McMullen. “Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond will provide a community fund of $200 million in the first 15 years alone to important causes like education and affordable housing.”
Cordish is hoping that what it sees as a well-rounded approach to integrating the project into the community will lead to the rise of its planned project in the city’s Scott’s Addition entertainment district.
“We believe we will, and should, see this type of diverse investment grow around the country,” said Weinberg. “Bringing a diversity of opinion, investment and inclusion in all facets of our businesses and society benefits everyone and models for all our young people that everyone has the opportunity to achieve great things in our country.”
Meet the Minority Investors
Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond’s team of Minority equity partners includes prominent Virginians and Richmonders, former professional athletes and nationally recognized investors to position Live! as the strongest financial partner for the City of Richmond.
Bushrod Family: Former 12-year NFL offensive lineman, two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLIV Champion Jermon Bushrod, and his father are natives of King George, Va., and work through The Visualize & Rize Foundation to provide students with the necessary tools to reach their potential.
Davis Family: Davis Brothers Construction Co. (DBCC) is one of the oldest family-owned and operated construction companies the state. DBCC was the first contractor in America admitted to the Federal Government A-8 program and is among the largest minority building contractors in the region.
Anthony Jimenez: Founder, chairman and CEO of Virginia-based MicroTech, one of the largest Hispanic-owned IT integrators in the nation, Jimenez grew the startup into a profitable half billion-dollar business. He is a retired Army officer, a Service-Disabled Veteran and an appointee in the Bush and Obama administrations.
Billy McMullen: A former Philadelphia Eagle and University of Virginia All-American receiver, McMullen played five years in the NFL. After his retirement, he became heavily involved in the community, coaching and mentoring youth and people of all ages.
Bruce Smith: Virginia native, former NFL player for the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Football Team, holds the league’s career quarterback sack record with 200. A native of Norfolk, the Pro Football Hall of Famer founded Bruce Smith Enterprises, a commercial real estate firm that specializes in mixed-use projects.
Emmitt Smith III: A three-time Super Bowl champion with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, Smith is the league’s all-time leading rusher and also a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Chairman of E. Smith Advisors, Smith partners with Newmark Knight Frank to operate more than 400 offices worldwide.
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