05.03.2011 – Asian-Americans Dominate NY’s Top Minority Firms – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Asian-Americans dominate NY’s top minority firms

Latest Crain’s ranking of minority-owned businesses shows Asian-American firms accounting for 10 of the 25 largest names. Top Asian-American firm? ASI System Integration

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 3, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Asian-American firms are making it big in the Big Apple, accounting for 10 of the Top 25 minority-owned companies in the New York area, according to a new Crain’s list.

There were nine Hispanic and Latino-owned companies and six African-American firms on the Crain’s list, which ranked the region’s 25 largest minority businesses by their 2010 revenues. The No .1 company was Goya Foods Inc., of Secaucus, N.J., with an estimated 1.7 billion in revenues last year.

The top Asian-American firm on the list was information technology company ASI System Integration, which reported $175 million in revenues for 2010, placing No. 5 overall.

Six of the 10 Asian-American-owned companies on the list operate in either apparel or construction and construction supplies, industries that have struggled during the recent recession. Indeed, seven of the 10 Asian-American firms on the list lost revenue from the year earlier.

By Design, a Manhattan-based apparel wholesale company, was founded in 1994 by Korean-American Chief Executive Jay Lee. Though still successful enough to make No. 10 on the list, the company’s revenue last year dropped to $77.1 million from $87.1 million in 2009. By Design’s director of human resources, Richard Eagan, said the continuing lull in the economy, paired with some retailers’ desire to save money by sourcing their own apparel overseas, made things tough last year.

The company is banking on innovation to help blunt the impact of falling revenue, acquiring a partner last summer in Los Angeles-based jeans-maker-to-the-stars David Kahn. Their high-end denims should appear in New York boutiques soon, Mr. Eagan said, noting that the move is “totally new” for a company that sells mainly knits and sweaters for young women.

One apparel wholesaler appears to have emerged unscathed: Lafayette 148 New York. The women’s apparel company ranked No. 8 on this year’s list with $100 million in revenues in 2010, up from $95 million in 2009.

Chief Executive Shun Yen Sui said Lafayette 148’s success in rough times resulted from a refusal to compromise the brand and the product. Favorable manufacturing locations also helped: “Certainly,” Mr. Sui said, “our vertical operations, with our own production facility in Shantou, China, give us a competitive advantage.”

Despite individual success stories, John Wang, president of the Manhattan-based Asian American Business Development Center, said apparel manufacturing has been falling for years. “Much of the manufacturing has moved to Asia, Vietnam,” he said. “And Americans are not spending as freely as before.”

Construction services also continued to slow in 2010: Though all three of the Asian-American construction and construction supplies firms on the Crain’s list moved up in the rankings, their total revenue dropped anywhere from 7% to 22%. (Overall construction spending in New York City plunged 12% in 2010 alone, and it’s off more than 20% from peaks seen in 2007 and 2008.)

Mr. Wang said whatever the sector, local Asian-American businesses will need to continue expanding into unfamiliar territory—even international markets—to stay competitive. He mentioned Latin America and Africa as potential markets for expansion, a trend growing for decades in Chinese business. But he also pointed to a growth market much closer to home.

Previously isolated minority groups are starting to put aside language and cultural barriers and are “developing each other” as potential customers, he said.

“On the smaller scale, people have been teaming up from the neighboring minority communities,” said Mr. Wang. But he said Asian American-owned companies “could be marketing much more heavily to Hispanic, African-American and gay and lesbian markets.”

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05.03.2011 – Tennis Championship Series Expands – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Tennis championship series expands

Series featuring Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and other stars will travel to 12 cities this fall.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 3, 2011 3:26 p.m.

Former world tennis champ Jim Courier squared off many times against the greats during his career, including players like Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang. But he seems to be as excited as any fan about watching some legendary rivalries back to life as part of his revamped Champions Series tour, which will kick off this fall.

The HSBC Tennis Cup will inaugurate the series on Sept. 22 at the Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. John McEnroe and Messrs. Sampras, Chang and Courier will compete in three matches that night. Those four champs and veteran stars Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Mr. Agassi will then go on to compete in a whirlwind 12-city tournament competition over five weekends in September and October.

“We are thrilled to reunite seven legends who have won an astonishing 52 Grand Slam singles titles among them,” Jon Venison, a founding partner of the Champions Series and co-founder, with Mr. Courier, of Manhattan-based InsideOut Sports and Entertainment said in a statement.

Though the New York City metro area won’t be included in the tour this year, the series’ reach has expanded, Mr. Courier said. The partners scored veteran live entertainment impresario Larry Magid, who is producing all of the events.

“We’re reaching more cities than we’ve ever been able to play in before,” said Mr. Courier. The condensed schedule, with three matches a night played over the five weekends, “is really meant to be player- and fan-friendly.”

Scheduled venues include Boston, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. But Mr. Courier and his company also made a concerted effort to include a wealth of markets not necessarily geared to tennis—Minneapolis; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Detroit among them. The expanded locations allow pro tennis to reach out to fans in places it is rarely seen, Mr. Courier said.

“Of the 12 cities, nine of them do not have any high-level tennis events,” he said. “It’ll be something special for the fans, all these big names coming to compete in their town.”

Past Champions Series tournaments saw players competing in a more grueling set of matches concentrated in one city over a few days.

“I think the series in previous years became a little bit limited,” said Mr. Courier. “We haven’t been able to get out to as many cities as we would have liked due to the multi-day tournament structure.”

The pared-down one-night, one-city tournaments this year are “a much better fit for the players,” he said. “It’s the perfect amount.”

The revamped schedule helped pull in big sponsors, including Staples, Geico and HSBC. The overall champion will receive $500,000 out of a million-dollar bonus pool, with second and third place scoring $350,000 and $150,000, respectively.

Mr. Courier enjoyed a storied 13-year run in professional tennis, winning four Grand Slam titles and 23 tournaments, and in 1992, becoming the first male American singles player since John McEnroe to rank No. 1 in the world. Along with Mr. McEnroe, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi, he also led the U.S. Davis Cup team to world domination twice in the early 1990s.

After retirement in 2001, he proved more enterprising than many former pro athletes, co-founding his own sports and entertainment event and promotion company, InsideOut, and throwing himself into charitable causes like his St. Petersburg, Fla. inner-city youth program, Raymond James Courier’s Kids.

Now he relishes his role as captain of the current Davis Cup team, where he mentors U.S. talent like Andy Roddick, 10-time Grand Slam doubles champs Bob and Mike Bryan, and 11th world-ranked men’s singles player Mardy Fish.

Messrs. Fish and Roddick currently place No. 11 and No. 12 in the world, and the Davis Cup outlook so far is promising, with the U.S. team defeating Chile 4-1 in the first round in March of this year.

But the overall numbers suggest U.S. men’s tennis is struggling. No Americans stand in the Top 10 in the world, according to ATP rankings, and only seven American male singles players rank in the Top 100. Meanwhile, European players like current No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal continue to dominate major competitions.

“The big events in tennis are doing incredibly well,” said Mr. Courier, but keeping American attention focused on the sport is “a little bit challenging” due to a lack of exposure. “Only four times a year do the top players compete in American events,” he said. “We don’t really get a lot of momentum.”

The veterans on the series have plenty of that, though. “They like this. They want to compete,” said Mr. Courier, adding that he particularly looked forward to the match-up between Messrs. McEnroe and Borg. “Andre [Agassi] in particular wants to get out there and thanks the fans for all they’ve done for him.”

03.26.2011 – 2011 40 Under 40: Aaron Shapiro, HUGE Inc. – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

2011 40 Under 40:

Aaron Shapiro, 39

HUGE, Chief executive

Aaron Shapiro

Aaron Shapiro’s work life is not simply paperless; it’s downright nomadic. The chief executive of HUGE, a digital marketing and design agency, doesn’t even have an office in the firm’s Brooklyn headquarters.

“I just have my laptop. That’s all I need, right?” he said from the company’s expansive Web design floor.

Mr. Shapiro’s overriding management directive: “Make something you love.”

His approach wins major clients. HUGE redesigned websites for CNN and Reuters and spearheaded the Web design of Pepsi’s novel Refresh campaign, which reallocated $20 million in funds intended for Super Bowl advertising to fund community initiatives.

Mr. Shapiro sold HUGE for close to $40 million to The Interpublic Group of Cos., a global network of marketing agencies, in 2008. The corporate backing allowed the married father of two to raise $10 million for a major international expansion, which started last year.

Adding to the string of achievements, Online Media, Marketing and Advertising magazine dubbed HUGE the social media agency of 2010. And Advertising Age recently named Mr. Shapiro’s firm to its A-List of hot agencies to watch, for the second straight year.

“Aaron’s incredibly driven and very, very relentless,” said Philippe Krakowsky, head of talent and strategy at Interpublic. “He’s always projecting himself to the next place.”

Indeed. HUGE had nine employees when Mr. Shapiro joined in 2005 as a business and strategy partner. By the time he became CEO last year, the firm boasted 300 employees and had offices in London and Brazil. Profits jumped by 50% in each of the past three years, topping $60 million in 2010. HUGE e-commerce platforms such as Target.com and JetBlue.com help generate some $12 billion in revenue for clients worldwide.

Next up: regional offices in Shanghai and Tokyo.

By Benjamin J. Spencer