Meet Mellody Hobson, the Starbucks chair — and wife of George Lucas — who's about to become the first Black woman part-owner in the NFL
Avery HartmansJun 16, 2022, 19:12 IST
Hobson was raised in Chicago and attended Princeton University, where she studied at the school of international relations and public policy. She graduated in 1991 and started a job with investment firm Ariel Investments, where she'd interned during college.
Hobson, who grew up bouncing between apartments and frequently experienced evictions, told Vanity Fair that she was "desperate" to understand money. "I felt like financial security would be the biggest gift I could ever have, ever," she said. Since then, Hobson has become a recognized financial literacy expert — during the financial crisis, she hosted an ABC show about how to manage your money.
In 2000, Ariel's founder, John Rogers, named Hobson president of the firm. In the meantime, she started a philanthropic organization — a public school on Chicago's South Side — and began working toward increasing corporate diversity with a conference for Black corporate directors.
Hobson was named Ariel's co-CEO in 2019. By then, she'd already served on multiple company boards, including Estée Lauder, DreamWorks Animation, Groupon, and Starbucks. In 2020, she was named chair of Starbucks' board, making her one of the highest-profile Black board chairs in the US.
Hobson earned Princeton's highest honor for undergraduates, the Woodrow Wilson Award, in 2019 — one year later, the university named a new residential college after her, the first to be named after a Black woman.
In 2005, Hobson met "Star Wars" creator George Lucas — eight years later, they were married at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. "We have the same values ... By values, I mean what's right and what society expects of us," Hobson told Vanity Fair.
The couple held the star-studded wedding, as well as a lavish party at Promontory Point in Chicago. Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford, and Robin Williams all helped celebrate their union, Vanity Fair reported.
Prince even performed at the party in Chicago. "When George and I got married and we planned our wedding reception, we reached out to ask him if he'd be willing to play," Hobson said in 2016. "And much to our shock and sheer delight, he said yes!"
About two months after their wedding, the couple welcomed a daughter via surrogate, Everest Hobson Lucas.
These days, Hobson's firm, Ariel Investments, has $16.8 billion in assets under management, and Hobson is a significant shareholder in the company — her stake is worth tens of millions of dollars, Vanity Fair reports. For his part, Lucas is worth an estimated $6.5 billion, due in large part to the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012. The couple signed the Giving Pledge with the goal of improving education.
In June 2022, Hobson joined the ownership group buying the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion — Rob Walton, a Walmart heir and former board chairman, is leading the group. "Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation," Walton said in a statement announcing the deal. "We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team."
While other Black women have held limited stakes in NFL franchises, Hobson is the first to be identified as being part of an original ownership group buying a team, The Athletic reports. "What a tremendous accomplishment and what a gift to be able to do what she's going to be able to do," Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson told the website.