Dec 14, 2021 - Business

Red Ventures CEO signs pledge to give away at least half of his family’s wealth

Ric Elias

Ric Elias. Photo courtesy of Red Ventures

Ric and Brenda Elias are the first Charlotteans to join the Giving Pledge, putting their names alongside 230 other billionaires committed to giving away the majority of their wealth.

Driving the news: The Eliases were among 14 signatories announced Tuesday morning, joining the initiative Warren Buffett, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates created in 2010.

  • “We are deeply private people who decided it was time to be public with our commitment to future generations,” the Eliases said in their Giving Pledge letter. “Our goal is simple; lead with giving.”

Why it matters: Ric Elias, the CEO and founder of Red Ventures, is the latest in a long line of Charlotte business leaders who give much of their wealth to the city and causes that matter to them. But this commitment — which over time could lead to many millions of investment in efforts around Charlotte — is unlike anything we’ve seen locally.

  • Ric co-founded Red Ventures in 2000 and quietly built into “the biggest digital media company in America,” as a New York Times headline recently said.
  • The Times story said the company has a conservative valuation of $11 billion, and Elias owns more than 20% of the company, putting his net worth over $2 billion.

The big picture: Ric, a Puerto Rico native and noted Miracle on the Hudson survivor, devotes most of his philanthropic attention to closing achievement and economic gaps by helping young people find paths to success.

  • Last month he gave $5 million to a citywide initiative to raise $250 million for racial equity.
  • He also created Road to Hire, a nonprofit program that identifies talented young people who aren’t college bound and trains them to become highly paid software developers and engineers for companies around Charlotte.

What they’re saying: The Eliases, who have two children of college age, said in their Giving Pledge letter: “We also write this as a love letter of sorts to our children and future grandchildren hoping to model the value of giving back and leaving the world in a better place for them.”

Between the lines: For most of its existence, Red Ventures, based in Indian Land, S.C. was a local success story very few people outside of Charlotte noticed. And Elias, while known for having Justin Timberlake perform at his birthday party and being close with Hornets stars, has kept a low-profile when it comes to talking about his money and success.

  • In 2020, though, Red Ventures gobbled up media brands right and left, spending more than half-a-billion that year alone.
  • Then came the Ben Smith New York Times story last August, a flattering profile peeling back the curtain on the company’s financials and said that Elias “has quietly become one of the most powerful media moguls in the country, a Barry Diller of the South.”
  • Now, nearly four months to the day after that story ran, he’s signed a pledge to give most of that wealth to charity.

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