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Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr.

While other investors cursed the dot-com bust in the late 1990s, business executive Herb Wilkins amassed a fortune. Born to Katherine and William Wilkins in Boston on January 9, 1942, Wilkins has accumulated his riches by tapping into minority businesses in the communication industry as managing general partner of Syncom Capital Corporation.

Wilkins attended public school in his hometown of Boston. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Boston University in 1965, Wilkins graduated from the Harvard School of Business in 1970 and began a long, successful career in finance and management consulting. Wilkins operated his own consulting company, Wilkins & Company, from 1975 to 1977, before taking over as president of Syndicated Communications in Washington, D.C. He served in that capacity through 1989 before taking posts as managing general partner of Syncom Capital and president of Syncom Management Company.

With Syncom, Wilkins developed a profitable strategy of investing in communications companies that targeted inner-city neighborhoods. The corporation's long-term investment in Radio One, a black company that was the fastest-growing radio broadcasting company in 2000, paid tremendous dividends when the corporate stock went public in 1999. Syncom's assets reached $150 million and Wilkins' net worth topped the $75 million mark. Wilkins also served as director of BET Holdings, the parent company of Black Entertainment Television.

In addition to his business positions, Wilkins has served on the boards of several companies and organizations geared toward minority broadcasting and communication. He worked as director of the National Association of Minorities in Cable TV and also was head of Chicago Cable Television. For his efforts to support rising minority communication companies, Wilkins has received several honors and awards and was named to the FCC's Advance Committee on Minority Ownership in 1984. Wilkins is married to Sheran R. Wlikins and has three children.

Herbert Wilkins, Sr. passed away on December 3, 2013.

Accession Number

A2003.158

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/17/2003

7/31/2007

Last Name

Wilkins

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Central State University

Boston Technical High School

Boston University

Harvard Business School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sheran

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

WIL03

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Charleston, South Carolina

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/9/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

12/3/2013

Short Description

Investment chief executive Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. (1942 - 2013 ) was the managing general partner of Syncom Capital Corporation and president of Syncom Management Company. He was also known for his investments in Black Entertainment Television, Radio One and communications companies that reach the inner city.

Employment

Wilkins & Company

Syndicated Communications

Urban National Corporation

General Electric

Lucas, Tucker, & Co.

Main Sponsor
Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179926">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr.'s interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179927">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179928">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his maternal grandmother and the summer camp she ran in New Hampshire</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179929">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179930">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179931">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about having an enlarged heart as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179932">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up and moving to the Mission Hill projects in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179933">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about getting beat up and the gang wars in the Mission Hill projects in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179934">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the local black gang, the Emperors, from the South End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179935">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his favorite teachers in grade school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179936">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his experience at Boston Technical High School in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179937">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about working as a machinist after graduating from Boston Technical High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179938">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks his experience at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179939">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about returning to Boston, Massachusetts and graduating from Boston University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179940">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes his interview for Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179941">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the rigor and intensity of Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179942">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about graduating from Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179943">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about entering the venture capital sphere</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179944">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the black middle-class' aversion to financial risk</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179945">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes the type of people he wants to finance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179946">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. gives an example of a successful and an unsuccessful businessperson he worked with during his career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179947">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes Syncom's investment strategy and the firm's return on investment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179948">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. lists some of Syncom's successful ventures and describes Syncom's largest investment, Iridium Satellite</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179949">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. details the amount of money he made on his best investment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179950">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the process of making money, when to exit a deal, and shares his advice for young people entering the venture capital sphere</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179951">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179952">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179953">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179954">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about changes in Federal Communications Commission regulations and Motorola's failed Iridium Satellite business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179955">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Slating of Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr.'s interview, session two</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179956">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. reconsiders his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179957">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes his mother's values</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179958">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. lists his siblings, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179959">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. lists his siblings, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179960">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179961">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about working at a hotel in Boston, Massachusetts during high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179962">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about moving to the Mission Hills projects and working as a jump boy on a news truck</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179963">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about learning to be a master painter from his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179964">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. states that he never attended the camp his grandmother ran</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179965">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes his earliest memories of his grade school years</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179966">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his activities and his academic interests at Boston Technical High School in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179967">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the death of his best friend in high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179968">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his experience at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179969">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about pledging Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179970">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. lists the jobs he held between graduating from college in 1965 and entering business school in 1968</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179971">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes his experience at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179972">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about entering the venture capital sphere and joining Urban National Corporation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179973">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes the type of deals and investments that he worked on at Urban National Corporation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179974">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes the differences between his investment strategy and Urban National Corporation's investment strategy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179975">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about working for Lucas, Tucker & Company and operating his own consulting firm, Wilkins & Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179976">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. explains how he was recruited to manage Syncom, a venture capital firm investing in minority telecommunication businesses</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179977">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about Syncom's initial investment strategy for FM radio stations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179978">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the process of licensing FM and AM radio stations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179979">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about some of Syncom's early FM radio station deals</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179980">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about an unsuccessful investment in a radio station in Phoenix, Arizona</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179981">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about financing HistoryMakers Cathy Hughes' purchase of WOL-AM in 1980 and WMMJ-FM in 1987</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179982">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about advising HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes and the business savvy of HistoryMaker Alfred Liggins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179983">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about Radio One's initial public offering in 1999</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179984">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about Jimmy Miller and Syncom's investment in Miller's radio station in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179985">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about African American-owned cable franchises in 1980s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179986">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about Syncom's successful investment in a cable company in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179987">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the politics involved in cable franchises and winning the franchise for a cable system in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179988">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the HistoryMaker Terry Jones and Duane McKnight, who form the core management team of Syncom</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179989">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. considers Syncom's success focusing its investment in the telecommunications industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358468">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the formation of NAMIC and differing philosophies between minority cable entrepreneurs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358469">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about Robert L. Johnson's idea for BET, Black Entertainment Television</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358470">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about HistoryMaker Pluria Marshall, Sr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358471">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about other minority venture capital firms, known as MESBICs, Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Companies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358472">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes how he raised money for Syncom and formed Syndicated Communications Partners</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358473">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about investing in Buenavision Telecommunications</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358474">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. recalls one of Robert L. "Bob" Johnson's meetings with J.C. Sparkman</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358475">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his investment in the unsuccessful magazine Emerge</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/358476">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. mentions John C. Malone and Peter R. Barton</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/179999">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about a cable system deal he mismanaged</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180000">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes how Syncom financed World Space, which became XM Satellite Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180001">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about investing in Iridium Satellite phones</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180002">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his profitable investment in Private Networks</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180003">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about the areas of growth in radio and cable and where the telecommunications industry is going next</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180004">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. reflects upon Syncom's role in growing the minority communications sector</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180005">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about arranging capital to finance Iridium and fighting with the Small Business Administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180006">Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about getting the last investor for his fund, Syncom II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180007">Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Companies (MESBICs) and the Small Business Administration, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180008">Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Companies (MESBICs) and the Small Business Administration pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180009">Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. explains his decision to retire</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180010">Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180011">Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/180012">Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about his hopes for his family</a>

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$10

DAStory

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DATitle
Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about entering the venture capital sphere
Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr. talks about getting the last investor for his fund, Syncom II
Transcript
When you graduated [from Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts] what did you do? What were your prospects?$$Well, when I graduated, I decided that I wanted to go into venture capital. I had worked with two other guys, Dan [Daniel] Denison -- Dennis and Tyrone Dickerson to set up a venture capital fund. And in the summer of '68 [1968], we worked on that fund with Charlie Cabot who was a lawyer at Sullivan and Worcester law firm in Boston [Massachusetts], and one of the Cabots. And Charlie really had a feeling that venture capital was a way for black people to move from where they were into the main stream of business. And so he was very supportive. But that effort just didn't -- it didn't make it. We just didn't have any big money -- moneyed person working with us to help us over the hump. And there was another group that started that summer, a white group, that was working with Morgan Guaranty [Trust] and Morgan Stanley to do the same thing. They actually got funding, Urban National [Corporation, Boston, Massachusetts]. And that's where I started work in 1973 at Urban National in the venture capital business. So I'm glad that they were successful, although they had no idea what they were doing. And they didn't really understand black people and black entrepreneurship. It's interesting because I always felt that culturally, there was a difference between the way white people pursue the development of business opportunities and the way black people pursue the development of business opportunities. And if you didn't understand that, you could end up in a wrong place. U.N.C. or Urban National wanted to finance what they thought were the right people for business development, middle-class black people, who I felt didn't have the chutzpah to make it. I felt that people who came out of the project and who had gone through the wars, fighting their way, were the right kind of people to finance. These are the guys who are going to make it in society. And the other guys would fall by the wayside. I turned out to be right, I really believe, based upon the success Syncom has had and based upon the lack of success that Urban National has had. I think that really is the proof in the pudding.$Fund two, Syncom II.$$Now, what year was this?$$This was back in 1992. We were having problems with all the investors because they wanted to cut our fees. And I remember being at Teachers Insurance [and Annuity Association of America] in New York [New York]. And they came in, and they said, "We're in, but you have to cut your fees." And I said, "If I have to cut my fees, you can't come in." I said, "I'm not cutting my fees." They said, "Well, you have to." I said, "No." I said, "I'm doing it at the same price that the other guys do. And it won't, it won't be for less. It'll be the same thing." And I said, "If that's your position, and you won't change it," I said, "We'll leave." And [HM] Terry [Jones] looked at me. He was stunned. He couldn't believe I was gonna walk out, and I was, I was read-- and I stood up, and they said, "Okay, okay, okay, you can keep the fees at the level that you propose." And I said, "Oh, okay," and we concluded the investment. And they were the smallest investor in the fund.$$And they were gonna tip the scale and benefit of everyone else except you?$$Oh, yeah.$$Okay. Were they the ones that were gonna close the loop? Were they the last entity in?$$They were the last ones.$$Okay, so that was it, and then you would have your deal closed?$$Um-hum.$$Any other stories like that, Herb [HM Herbert P. Wilkins, Sr.]?$$No, not really.$$You got me all excited (laughter). That was a good story.