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Barden, Don H. 1943–

Don H. Barden 1943

Business executive

At a Glance

Tried His Hand at Politics

Traveled Information Superhighway

Music or Politics?

Sources

Don Barden, the former owner of a Detroit cable television empire that employs more than 300 workers and serves nearly 120,000 households, has the Midas touch. Throughout his business career, Barden has cleverly melded his political connections with his entrepreneurial know-how, building vast radio and television holdings from exceedingly modest roots. He began his career with $500 he had saved performing odd jobs; relying on his own business savvy and vision of the future, Barden parlayed a tiny enterprise into a fortune estimated at more than $100 million at the end of 1994.

Born on December 20, 1943, Barden grew up in a family that advocated hard work. His father, Milton, scrambled to earn a living, working as a mechanic, a farmer, and an auto-plant laborer, among other jobs. When Don was not hard at work, he turned his attention to sports. In high school he quarterbacked his football team. He also excelled at basketball, and at one time captained both teams. After high school Barden enrolled in Central State University in 1963. College was expensive, however, and Barden did not have enough money to pay for four years of schooling. He dropped out after his freshman year and set out to make his way in the world of business.

Barden moved to Ohio, where a brother was living, and worked over the next few years as a hired hand in shipbuilding yards, a plumber, and a restaurant worker. Like other entrepreneurs in the United States, Barden realized that the best way to make money, create jobs, and make a difference in the community was to go into business for himselfand that is just what he did.

Barden told Black Enterprise magazine that his goal was to control his own destiny, so he withdrew $500 that he had squirreled away in the bank and opened a record store. Not content with a mere retail establishment, he expanded further and began booking bands and promoting shows. The next step was to create a small record label and get into that side of the music business. When he found that he had a flair for promotion, he got into public relations full-time, creating a firm in Lorain, Ohio. Each successive step created new challenges and taught him more about business, but did not result in riches. The financial rewards would come later, when Barden turned his attention to real estate.

At a Glance

Born Don H. Barden, December 20, 1943, in De troit, Ml; son of Milton (a laborer) and Hortense (Hamilton) Barden; married Bella Marshall, May 14, 19B8; children: Keenan. Education: Attended Central State University, Wilberforce, OH, 1963-64, Politics: Democrat.

Career: Lorain County Times (newspaper), Lorain, OH, founder and publisher, 1967; real estate developer, 1967-c. late 1970s; councilman, City of Lorain, 1972-75; owner and president, Don H. Barden Co., 1976-81; talk show host, WKYC-TV, Cleveland, 1977-80; chairman and president, Barden Communications, Inc., Detroit, 1981. President, Urban Action, Inc.; delegate, White House Conference on Small Business; board of directors, National Cable TV Association; member, Executive Committee of the Democratic Party.

Addresses: Office Barden Communications, Inc., 12775 Lyndon, Detroit, Ml 48227.

Bardens first real estate deal involved the U.S. government, which was in the market for a new building to house its military recruiting station in Lorain. Throughout his career Barden would work hand-in-hand with the federal government, either negotiating deals for minority representation of community businesses, or in the case of the military recruiting station, just being in the right place at the right time. In that instance, he scouted around Lorain until he found a suitable structure, then approached the government and received a commitment from the military that it would indeed lease the facility. With the governments commitment in hand, he went to the bank and secured a loan to purchase the building. Barden invested $25,000 and, two years later, sold the building for $50,000.

Tried His Hand at Politics

Now that he was firmly established in Lorain, Barden explored new opportunities. He turned to publishing and, with a partner, tried to start a newspaper in 1967. That particular enterprise failed, but he tried again, eventually creating the Lorain County Times. Using the newspaper as a springboard for even greater community involvement, Barden entered politics, serving two terms on the Lorain City Council, from 1972 until 1975.

Barden moved from the political pulpit to the electronic pulpit in 1977, when he took to the airwaves at WKYC-TV in Cleveland. For three years he held sway on a talk show that aired on Clevelands National Broadcasting Company (NBC) affiliate. Barden kept his eyes open to the changes that were occurring in the entertainment industry; prognosticators were predicting the demise of network television as more and more people turned to cable. Barden saw that cable was coming, and with it would come the potential for great profits. Though real estate development deals were still his main business venture in the late 1970s, Barden kept his eyes trained on the electronic landscape, looking for an opening.

According to Black Enterprise magazine, Barden used his television acumen and his community leader status to put together an arrangement that would start him on the road to becoming a cable television magnate. Barden helped broker a deal whereby four percent of the cable television franchises in the City of Lorain, as well as those of another nearby community, were set aside by the licensing authorities for African American investment. Barden bought two percent of each franchise for $2,000 apiece. He was quoted in Black Enterprise as saying, Thats a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It proved to be a special opportunity, indeed, for two years later Barden sold his tiny interests for $200,000.

After such a business coup it was not surprising that Barden turned his attention to cable and its profit potential full-time. Barden had a clear aim: to find communities in the West and Midwest that were primarily black, and, using his know-how and connections, attempt to wire as many as he could for cable television. His first opportunity was in Inkster, Michigan. That community awarded Barden a contract to wire 10,000 of its homes. Barden completed the job on time and on budget. In 1981 and 1982, he negotiated his reputation for good work into contracts wiring other communities. He learned the new business as he went along and that education eventually paid off for him.

The City of Detroit, with its 375,000 households, wanted to get wired for cable and put the big job up for bids in 1982. Barden was prepared. He invested his own money and took out bank loans. Eventually he put $500,000 together to write a proposal on how he could do the job for Detroit. The city hired a consultant to review Bardens plan as well as the plans of other would-be cable wirers. The consultant gave his approval to Barden, recommending to Detroits cable commission that he get the job. Mayor Coleman Young signed off on the Barden plan, as did the Detroit City Council.

The work was just beginning for Barden, however. Over the next three years he worked hard to put the cable television operation together. The project required an enormous capital investment, for it entailed laying massive amounts of wire, both above ground and through underground conduits, as well as the purchase of facilities and equipment. Barden needed approximately $100 million, so he set about finding a partner.

According to the New York Times, Barden found his deep pockets north of the border, in the Canadian communications company Maclean Hunter, Ltd., of Toronto. In 1984, when Maclean Hunter agreed to purchase 25 percent of Barden Cablevision, Inc., for $230,000, the company was Canadas largest communications enterprise. Barden would eventually sell 60 percent of his cable company, retaining the other 40 percent for himself. However, he always maintained 51 percent of the voting rights in the company. According to Black Enterprise, Maclean Hunter lent Bardens company $15 million and a Canadian bank put up an additional $80 million.

In 1986, Barden began the task of wiring Detroit. Making cable available was the first step. Then Barden had to solicit a pool of dependable subscribers. In 1994, Barden Cablevision had about 120,000 subscribers, meaning that it had the potential for further growth. Barden told Black Enterprise that his cable customersprimarily less affluent Detroit residentsare not the most ideal customers in the eyes of cable analysts. Such residents, he said, often have trouble paying their monthly cable bills, and sometimes the customers end up canceling their service. Bardens outfit, therefore, had to spend a lot of time churning customers, or signing up new subscribers and canceling others. He told the magazine: Our business is good now. Im concerned about the future, concerned about people having the money to buy cable.

Traveled Information Superhighway

Rather than just worry about how his empire could become diminished by changing technology, Barden took some bold steps to stay ahead of the market changes he saw coming. In 1991, Barden Communications, Inc., received from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) one of the few experimental licenses to test Personal Communications Services (PCS)devices similar to wireless pocket phones, but noncellular in nature and able to send high quality transmissions of faxes, phone messages, and computer information.

According to Black Enterprise, Barden saw the PCS trend early. Because he had already had the experimental licenses and had been experimenting with the technology, Barden was ahead of other entrepreneurs who wanted to get into the market when the FCC auctioned off the real PCS licenses in 1994. Were in a good position to aggressively pursue those licenses, Barden was quoted as saying in Black Enterprise Bardens company was one of the few black firms to get a share of the new, high tech business.

Getting the jump on the PCSs had another, more personal benefit for Barden. PCS technology allows the holders of the licenses to take some business away from the nations large phone companies. It is those same phone companies, such as AT&T, that most analysts see getting involved in cable television, and taking away business from operators such as Barden Communications. Barden was aware of this trend and chalked it up as an inevitability. Most observers of the industry agree that telephone companies, in the not too distant future, will be able to provide cable service, Barden told Black Enterprise in September of 1994. Unless a [cable] company has two million or more customers, they will be unable to compete in the next three to five years. When Barden got into the PCS business, he was quoted as saying, I hope to give the phone companies some of their own business.

It was the inevitability of an impending takeover and his knowledge of the new economics of cable television that caused Barden to bow out of the business he had helped create. He announced late in 1994 that he was selling Barden Cablevisionpart of Barden Communications, Inc.to Philadelphias Comcast Corp. Maclean Hunter had already sold its share to Comcast. The deal was expected to be completed by the end of 1994. Bardens 40 percent share of Barden Cablevision was expected to net him $100 million after the sale.

Music or Politics?

His success in the stressful worlds of politics and business notwithstanding, Barden is reported to be a cool, low-key individual. In a Black Enterprise profile, he is described as a soft-spoken man, who never yells even when angry. That same article detailed his plans to diversify his communications empire and his contemplation of a return to the recording business.

When those people who know him discuss Bardens future, one potential profession always comes up: politics. In 1992, the speculation focused on his becoming mayor of Detroit. His reply then, as quoted in Black Enterprise was, I dont have a strong desire to do so. For me to run for mayor would be an extreme sacrifice, actually, because Id be foregoing my business career while I am in my prime. Barden is a member of the executive committee of the national Democratic Party.

While speculations continued as to the powerful entrepreneurs future plans, Barden turned his attention to two industries very much at the heart of his hometowns financial endeavors: casino gambling and cars. In 1995, Barden won a contract to build a riverboat casino gambling enterprise in the depressed city of Gary, Indiana, and he wanted to get in on the ground floor of casino gambling in Detroit when the possibility opened up in 1998. When Mayor Archer rejected his bid, Barden recruited black celebrities Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to help him campaign for a contract in the hopes that Detroit voters would overturn Archers decision. His billion-dollar casino proposal was to be called Majestic Kingdom and included plans for an 800-room hotel, botanical gardens, nightclubs, restaurants, and the Michael Jackson Thriller Theme Park. But in spite of Bardens vigorous campaigning, Detroit voters rejected his proposal on August 8, 1998.

Never one to put all his eggs in one basket, Barden secured a deal with Namibia to supply them with 824 Chevrolet pickup trucks to be delivered in 1998. However, the deal quickly soured on delivery of the trucks when it was discovered that Barden had sold left-hand-drive cars to a country that drives on the left side of the road. Namibia has to pay an additional $15 million to convert the trucks to right-hand drivea contract which Barden also won. Barden responded to critics of this deal by saying that such criticism is racially motivated because many people cannot accept the financial success of a black businessman.

Bardens success, however, is an undeniable fact. He has proven himself more than able to make money in a diverse range of businesses, from cars to publishing, to the communications industry. Doubtless, Barden will continue to make a powerful impact on the business world.

Sources

Black Enterprise, June 1992, p. 135; May 1994, p. 25; September 1994, p. 17.

Forbes, October 19, 1998, pp. 112-113.

New York Times, June 26, 1984, p. D4.

John LoDico and Rebecca Parks

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Barden, Don H. 1943–

Don H. Barden 1943

Communications executive

At a Glance

Tried His Hand at Politics

Travelled Information Superhighway

Music or Politics?

Sources

Don Bardena man poised to jump on the information superhighway with vigoris the former owner of a Detroit cable television empire that employs more than 300 workers and serves nearly 120,000 households. Throughout his business career, Barden has cleverly melded his political connections with his entrepreneurial know-how, building vast radio and television holdings from exceedingly modest roots. He started off his career using $500 he had saved performing odd jobs; relying on his own business savvy and a vision of the future, Barden parlayed a tiny enterprise into a fortune estimated at more than $100 million by the end of 1994.

Born on December 20, 1943, Barden grew up in a family where working hard at whatever jobs presented themselves was the norm. He was instilled with the work ethic from his earliest days. His father, Milton, scrambled to earn a living, working as a mechanic, a farmer, and an auto-plant laborer, among other jobs. When Don was not hard at work, he turned his attention to sports. In high school he quarterbacked his football team. He also excelled at basketball, and at one time captained both teams. After high school Barden wanted to attend college, so he enrolled in Central State University in 1963. College was expensive, however, and Barden just did not have enough cash to pay for four years of schooling. He was forced to drop out after his freshman year and make his way in the world of business.

Barden moved to Ohio, where a brother was living, and searched around for a job. He was variously employed over the next few years as a hired hand in shipbuilding yards, a plumber, and a restaurant worker. Like other entrepreneurs in the United States, Barden realized that the best way to make money, create jobs, and make a difference in the community was to go into business for himself, and that is what he did.

Barden told Black Enterprise magazine that his goal was to control his own destiny, so he withdrew $500 that he had squirreled away in the bank and opened a record store. Not content with a mere retail establishment, he expanded further. Barden began booking bands and promoting shows. The next step was to create a small record label and get into that side of the music business. When he found that he had a flair for promotion, he got into public relations full-time, creating a firm in Lorain, Ohio, which was where he had been living. Each successive step created new challenges and taught him more about business, but did not result in riches. The financial rewards would come later, when Barden turned his attention

At a Glance

Born Don H. Barden, December 20, 1943, in Detroit, Ml; son of Milton (a laborer) and Hortense (Hamilton) Barden; married Bella Marshall, May 14, 1988; children: Keenan. Education: Attended Central State University, Wilberforce, OH, 196364. Politics: Democrat.

Lorain County Times (newspaper), Lorain, OH, founder and publisher, 1967; real estate developer, 1967-c. late 1970s; councilman, City of Lorain, 197275; owner and president, Don H. Barden Co., 197681; talk show host, WKYC-TV, Cleveland, 197780; chairman and president, Barden Communications, Inc., Detroit, 1981. President, Urban Action, Inc.; delegate, White House Conference on Small Business; board of directors, National Cable TV Association; member, Executive Committee of the Democratic Party.

Addresses: Office Barden Communications, Inc., 12775 Lyndon, Detroit, Ml 48227.

to real estate.

Bardens first real estate deal involved the U.S. government, which was in the market for a new building to house its military recruiting station in Lorain. Throughout his career Barden would work hand-in-hand with the federal government, either negotiating deals for minority representation of community businesses, or in the case of the military recruiting station, just being in the right place at the right time. In that instance, he scouted around Lorain until he found a suitable structure, then approached the government and received a commitment from the military that it would indeed lease the facility. With the governments commitment in hand, he went to the bank and secured a loan to purchase the building. Barden invested $25,000 and, two years later, sold the building for $50,000.

Tried His Hand at Politics

Barden had caught the real estate bug and would continue making deals over the course of his career, although many of them were for much bigger sums of money. The local banks also were intrigued by Bardens deal-making ability; he was considered a good credit risk and was often helped to finance many subsequent purchases.

Now that he was firmly established in Lorain, Barden explored about for new opportunities. He turned to publishing and, with a partner, he tried to start a new newspaper in 1967. That particular enterprise failed, but he tried again, eventually creating the Lorain County Times. Using the newspaper as a springboard for even greater community involvement, Barden was encouraged by friends and colleagues to enter politics, which he did, serving two terms on the Lorain City Council, from 1972 until 1975.

Barden moved from the political pulpit to the electronic pulpit in 1977, when he took to the airwaves at WKYC-TV in Cleveland. For three years he held sway on a talk show that aired on Clevelands National Broadcasting Company (NBC) affiliate. Barden kept his eyes open to the changes that were occurring in the entertainment industry; prognosticators were predicting the demise of network television as more and more people turned to cable. Barden saw that cable was coming, and with it would come the potential for great profits. Though real estate development deals were still his main business venture in the late 1970s, Barden kept his eyes trained on the electronic landscape, looking for an opening.

According to Black Enterprise magazine, Barden used his television acumen and his community leader status to put together a arrangement that would start him on the road to becoming a cable television magnate. Barden helped broker a deal whereby four percent of the cable television franchises in the City of Lorain, as well as of another nearby community, were set aside by the licensing authorities for African American investment. Barden bought two percent of each franchise for $2,000 apiece. He was quoted in Black Enterprise as saying, Thats a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It proved to be a special opportunity, indeed, for two years later Barden sold his tiny interests for $200,000.

After such a business coup it was not surprising that Barden turned his attention to cable and its profit potential full-time. Barden had a clear aim: to find communities in the West and Midwest that were primarily black, and, using his know-how and connections, attempt to wire as many as he could for cable television. His first opportunity was in Inkster, Michigan. That community awarded Barden a contract to wire 10,000 of its homes. Barden completed the job on time and on budget. In 1981 and 1982, he negotiated his reputation for good work into contracts wiring other communities. He learned the new business as he went along, and that education eventually paid off for him.

The City of Detroit, with its 375,000 households, wanted to get wired for cable and put the big job up for bids in 1982. Barden was prepared. He invested his own money and took out loans from the banks that had treated him well during his real estate development. Eventually he put $500,000 together, just to write a proposal on how he could do the job for Detroit. The city hired a consultant to review Bardens plan as well as the plans of other would-be cable wirers. The consultant gave his approval to Barden, recommending to Detroits cable commission that he get the job. Mayor Coleman Young had to sign off on the Barden plan, as did the Detroit City Council.

The work was just beginning for Barden, however. Over the next three years he worked hard to put the cable television operation together. The project required an enormous capital investment, for it entailed laying massive amounts of wire, both above ground and through underground conduits, as well as the purchase of facilities and equipment to bring cable to the people. Barden needed approximately $100 million, so he set about finding a partner.

According to the New York Times, Barden found his deep pockets north of the border, in the Canadian communications company Maclean Hunter, Ltd., of Toronto. In 1984, when Maclean Hunter agreed to purchase 25 percent of Barden Cablevision, Inc., for $230,000, the company was Canadas largest communications enterprise. Barden would eventually sell 60 percent of his cable company, retaining the other 40 percent for himself. However, he always maintained 51 percent of the voting rights in the company. According to Black Enterprise, Maclean Hunter lent Bardens company $15 million and a Canadian bank put up an additional $80 million.

In 1986, Barden began the task of wiring Detroit. Making cable available was the first step. Then Barden had to solicit a pool of dependable subscribers. In 1994, Barden Cablevision had about 120,000 subscribers, meaning that it had the potential for further growth. Barden told Black Enterprise that his cable customersprimarily less affluent Detroit city dwellersare not the most ideal customers in the eyes of cable analysts. Such residents, he said, often have trouble paying their monthly cable bills, and sometimes the customers end up canceling their service. Bardens outfit, therefore, had to spend a lot of time churning customers, or signing up new subscribers and cancelling others. He told the magazine: Our business is good now. Im concerned about the future, concerned about people having the money to buy cable.

Travelled Information Superhighway

Rather than just worry about how his empire could become diminished by changing technology, Barden took some bold steps to stay ahead of the market changes he saw coming. In 1991, Barden Communications, Inc., received from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) one of the few experimental licenses to test Personal Communications Services (PCS)devices similar to wireless pocket phones, but noncellular in nature and able to send high quality transmissions of faxes, phone messages, and computer information. In short, PCS are another key component to the much-heralded information superhighway often spoken about in the early 1990s.

According to Black Enterprise, Barden saw the PCS trend early. Being politically connected helped him immensely. Because he had already had the experimental licenses and had been experimenting with the technology, Barden was ahead of other entrepreneurs who wanted to get into the market when the FCC auctioned off the real PCS licenses in 1994. Were in a good position to aggressively pursue those licenses, Barden was quoted as saying in Black Enterprise. 4,000 licenses were up for grabs. Even the FCC conceded that black firms were not getting their fair share of the new, high-tech business. Bardens company was one of the few exceptions, getting on the PCS bandwagon years before others had caught on to the technology.

Getting the jump on the PCSs has another, more personal benefit for Barden. PCS technology allows the holders of the licenses to take some business away from the nations large phone companies. It is those same phone companies, such as AT&T, that most analysts see getting involved in cable television, and taking away business from operators such as Barden Communications. Barden was aware of this trend and chalked it up as an inevitability. Most observers of the industry agree that telephone companies, in the not too distant future, will be able to provide cable service, Barden told Black Enterprise in September of 1994. Unless a [cable] company has two million or more customers, they will be unable to compete in the next three to five years. When Barden got into the PCS business, he was quoted as saying, I hope to give the phone companies some of their own business.

It was the inevitability of an impending takeover and his knowledge of the new economics of cable television that caused Barden to bow out of the business he had helped create. He announced late in 1994 that he was selling Barden Cablevisionpart of Barden Communications, Inc.to Philadelphias Comcast Corp. Maclean Hunter had already sold its share to Comcast. The deal was expected to be completed by the end of 1994. Bardens 40 per cent share of Barden Cablevision was expected to net him $100 million after the sale.

Music or Politics?

His success in the stressful worlds of politics and business notwithstanding, Barden is reported to be a cool, low-key individual. In a Black Enterprise profile, he is described as a soft-spoken man, who never yells even when angry. That same article detailed his plans to diversify his communications empire and his contemplation of a return to the recording business.

When those people who know him discuss Bardens future, one potential profession always comes up: politician. In 1992, the speculation focused on his becoming mayor of Detroit. His reply then, as quoted in Black Enterprise was, I dont have a strong desire to do so. For me to run for mayor would be an extreme sacrifice, actually, because Id be foregoing my business career while I am in my prime. Barden is a member of the executive committee of the national Democratic Party. He also was exploring some riverboat gambling options as 1994 drew to a close. Upon the sale of his cable interests, the speculation once again turned back to his political options. Again Barden told Black Enterprise in September of 1994: I never say never, but right now I can say I have no such aspirations.

Sources

Black Enterprise, June 1992, p. 135; May 1994, p. 25; September 1994, p. 17.

New York Times, June 26, 1984, p. D4.

John LoDico

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"Barden, Don H. 1943–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Barden, Don H. 1943–

Don H. Barden
1943

Chief executive officer, Barden Companies

Nationality: American.

Born: December 20, 1943, in Detroit, Michigan.

Education: Attended Central State University, 19631964.

Family: Son of Milton Barden (mechanic and auto laborer) and Hortense (maiden name unknown); married Bella Marshall (Barden Companies' president and COO); children: one.

Career: Record store, 1960s, owner; newspaper owner, 19671972; Lorain County Times, 1974, partner; Lorain City Council, 19721975, council member; Don H. Barden Inc., 19761981, president; WKYC-TV, 19771980, talk-show host; Barden Cablevision, 19821994, CEO; Barden Companies, 1994, CEO.

Awards: Trumpet Award, Turner Companies, 2004; Seven Living Legends, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the Detroit City Council, 2004.

Address: Barden Companies, 163 Madison Avenue, Suite 2000, Detroit, Michigan 48226.

Don H. Barden started up his first business with only $500 and a dogged determination to control his destiny; in the 1960s, using an instinctive entrepreneurial acumen, he opened a record store. From this humble beginning Barden made inroads into the cable industry, eventually achieving success as the first African American cable-company owner. He then moved on to the casino industry; he first acquired a riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana, then used his experiential expertise and an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time to purchase three more casinosincluding one in Las Vegas, making him the first African American to own a casino there.

STARTED VARIOUS COMPANIES

Don Barden was born on December 20, 1943, in Detroit, Michigan. His parents, Milton and Hortense, taught all of their 13 children the value of hard work and determination. During high school Barden excelled at sports as a member of his school's basketball and football teams. He went on to Central State University, in Wilberforce, Ohio, but money for college was scarce; he left after his freshman year. Barden moved to Lorain, Ohio, and worked various odd jobs while saving money. He soon amassed $500 and opened a record store, where he began promoting shows and booking bands. Before long he had started a small record label as well as a publicrelations firm.

Though Barden gained experience through his various businesses, he was not reaping the level of profit he desired. That changed when he moved into the field of real estate and helped the U.S. government find a location for a new militaryrecruiting station. After Barden identified a building, he secured a commitment from the government for the military to lease the facility. Bearing the letter of commitment, he procured a bank loan with which to make the purchase; he sold the building two years later for $50,000, doubling his investment.

Barden soon switched gears once more: he started a newspaper with a partner, creating the successful Lorain County Times. He later enjoyed a short political career with his election to the Lorain City Council, serving two terms between 1972 and 1975.

HIGH VISIBILITY LED TO CABLE OPPORTUNITIES

After leaving the public-service arena, Barden became a talk-show host on WKYC-TV in Lorain. He soon learned of openings in the cable industry; he helped put together a deal wherein 4 percent of the cable-television franchises in Lorain and another community were set aside for investment by African Americans. Barden himself purchased a share of each franchise for $2,000 apiece, shares which he later sold for $200,000.

Perceiving cable to be the future of television, Barden began locating primarily black communities to wire. The City of Inkster, Michigan, awarded Barden his first home-wiring contract. He completed the work on time and under budget, earning himself a reputation as a reliable and respectable contractor; he soon won contracts in other communities.

STARTED BARDEN CABLEVISION

In 1982 the mayor and city council of Detroit, Michigan, began seeking bids to wire the city. Barden invested $500,000 to write a proposal, and his efforts paid off when he was awarded the contract. However, in spite of his business know-how and good reputation, Barden still lacked the capital to fund the project, which involved laying wire both above and below ground.

The Canadian company Maclean Hunter of Toronto agreed to purchase 25 percent of Barden Cablevision for $230,000. Maclean would eventually own 60 percent of the cable company, with Barden owning 40 percent and maintaining 51 percent of the voting rights. In addition, Maclean loaned the company $15 million; Barden also received an $80 million loan from a Canadian bank.

Barden began wiring Detroit in 1986 and used an unorthodox approach in order to lure customers and expand his business. While most cable operators sought affluent customers as subscribers, Barden targeted the less well-off. He began the practice of "churning," or signing new customers while canceling delinquent accounts. Barden Cablevision soon grew to include 120,000 subscribers.

SOLD COMPANY TO OPEN CASINO

In 1993 the State of Indiana approved the operation of riverboat casinos. Barden first teamed up with President Riverboat Casinos in an effort to make a purchase; unfortunately for Barden, President Riverboat was unable to produce its pledged half of the money. Following Maclean Hunter's lead, Barden sold his share of Barden Cablevision to Comcast Cable for $300 million. He then placed a successful bid with Gary, Indiana, to secure a contract for his riverboat casino, the Majestic Star, to open for gaming in 1996.

In Detroit, meanwhile, voters approved a proposal to bring casinos to their city. Barden, wanting to help in the rebuilding process, placed a bid. He was unsuccessful but undeterred. He argued for and won a chance to place a referendum before the voters, partnering with superstar Michael Jackson in an attempt to create the Majestic Kingdoma complex that would comprise a casino, hotel, restaurants, and a theme park. Voters, however, turned down the referendum. Still unfazed, Barden triedonce again unsuccessfullyto purchase Greektown Casino in Detroit. In 2002 he and the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians claimed that the 1997 Detroit Casino bidding process was unconstitutional. It seemed Barden would finally realize his goal of opening a casino in Detroit, but in 2004 a judge put another stop to this dream becoming a reality.

Barden eventually shifted his focus to acquiring three Fitzgeralds casinos that had filed for bankruptcy. To garner funds to make the purchases, Barden visited 40 institutions in a dozen cities. As selling points he cited the facts that the Majestic Star had a proven track record; the Fitzgeralds casinos were still generating profits and had excellent growth potential; and the casinos were being bought at a significant discount. He was able to secure $135 million and also put up $14 million of his own cash.

BECAME FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN CASINO OWNER IN LAS VEGAS

In 2002 Barden took possession of the Fitzgeralds casinos. One was based in Tunica, Mississippi, another in Black Hawk, Colorado, and the third in downtown Las Vegas. With the Las Vegas casino Barden became the city's first African American casino owner.

Barden Companies, with over four thousand employees, earned $347 million in 2002, 90 percent of which came from Barden's four casinos, his Tunica-based casino being the most profitable. Not one to rest on his laurels, Barden tried to acquire the rival Trump Casinos' riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana, and planned to open a hotel-casino on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indiesall while trying to purchase another bankrupt casino in Black Hawk, Colorado.

EXPANDING INTO VARIOUS TECHNOLOGIES

Barden was involved in implementing innovations. His Barden Technologies company developed computerized voting machines; another company, Barden Entertainment, developed digital video jukeboxes that played music videos. Barden expected the voting machines to be certified and ready for use in 2006 and the jukeboxes to bring in $100 million by the same year.

Barden was described in a profile in Black Enterprise magazine, which gave its Company of the Year award to Barden Cablevision in 1992 and to Barden Companies in 2003, as a "soft-spoken man" (June 1992). He showed that he had great negotiating skills, whether for real estate or for licenses for new technology, and was a risk taker. With each new acquisition he gained more experience, and he continually used his new skills to move his companies forward. As quoted in Black Enterprise, U.S. Representative Richard Gephardt, a Democrat from Missouri, stated, "Don's success is a direct result of his sharp intellect and his dedicated work ethic" (June 2003).

In addition to being a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party, Barden was the chairman of the board of directors for the Booker T. Washington Business Association. He was married to Bella Marshall, who was also Barden Companies' president and chief operating officer. The couple resided in Detroit with their son, Keenan.

sources for further information

Bray, Hiawatha, "Wired for Success," Black Enterprise, June 1992, pp. 134137.

Dietderich, Andrew, "Barden Buys Three Casinos," Crain's Detroit Business, February 25, 2002, p. 18.

Huey, Erik C., "Fitzgeralds Owner Upbeat on Downtown," Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 20, 2004.

Hughes, Alan, "The House Always Wins," Black Enterprise, June 2003, pp. 126133.

Lam, Tina, "CEO of Casino Operator Continues Fight to Build Property in Detroit," Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, February 23, 2004.

Ashyia N. Henderson

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"Barden, Don H. 1943–." International Directory of Business Biographies. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Barden, Don H. 1943–." International Directory of Business Biographies. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/barden-don-h-1943