Chad Strader, left, and Nicholas Antoine
Co-founders and co-CEOs
Red Arts Capital
Chad Strader and Nick Antoine met in the hallway of Ariel Investments, one of Chicago’s most prominent Black-owned financial services firms.
Antoine was an analyst at asset manager Ariel, and Strader was at Chicago private-equity firm Woodlawn Partners. Strader wanted to meet Ariel founder and CEO John Rogers. Rogers wasn’t there that day, but Strader was introduced to Antoine, and the two became fast friends.
Soon they were partners, launching Red Arts Capital seven years ago, a rarity as a 100% Black-owned private-equity firm. They acquire firms in the supply-chain and logistics industries, pursuing niche corners of that vast business like trucking outfits that deliver less-than-full loads on behalf of multiple business customers.
Red Arts is raising its first full-fledged fund, aiming for $225 million, after selling its specialty trucking platform late last year for $150 million, making a gross return of 740% over five years. (Net return over that period was 620%.)
Original investors as Antoine and Strader strove to prove their investment ideas would work included Rogers, famed asset manager Mario Gabelli and John Canning, perhaps Chicago’s best-known private-equity player as co-founder and chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners.
Canning marvels at how the two young entrepreneurs convinced older owners of family-owned businesses in places like Arkansas to partner with them.
“They seek mentors, and they use them,” Canning says. “They’re humble; they’re really honest. And they’ve thought of most questions (ahead of time).”
Antoine is a self-described investment geek who took to the discipline as a teen growing up in New York City and New Jersey, devouring value investing guru Ben Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor” in high school and counting Warren Buffett as a hero.
Strader grew up in Georgia, the son of an entrepreneur who owned a car repair shop. He moved to New York out of college to take a job with PepsiCo and then obtained an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Antoine focuses on raising money and investment research, while Strader is more operations-oriented, working with portfolio companies on improving their businesses.
“We really complement each other,” Antoine says.
A Division I soccer player at Georgia Southern University, Strader grew enamored with financial services after reading “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?” by Reginald Lewis, the first African American to close a billion-dollar leveraged deal abroad.
“That was the light that went off for me,” he says. “He did exactly what my father did but on a much, much bigger scale.”
By Steve Daniels
Photo by John R. Boehm
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