Earl G. Graves, a minority businessman who says the most important thing black about his business is its bottom line, today was named to the board of directors of International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. The appointment was announced by ITT board chairman and chief executive Harold S. Geneen.
Graves is publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine, heads a marketing research firm, Earl Graves Associates, and recently purchased a pair of Dallas radio stations, KNOK AM and FM.
In an interview Friday at his Madison Avenue office Graves said he did not assume he was named to the ITT post, "because they ran out of people who were smart and white."
Nor, he added, did he regard the appointment as a civil rights gesture. He said he asked ITT rights gesture. He said he asked ITT officials why they wanted him on the board, and "they told me they were seeking a better bottom line and they thought I could help."
Grave, who is also on the board of the Ligget group, said he has turned down other positions on boards of directors that appeared to offer lesser opportunities to have an impact - as a businessman - on the companies. "The most important thing a minority buiness, or any kind of business, has to do is make money," he said.
Creating jobs and building jobs for the black community are important goals, but he added, "you can't give to the United Negro College Fund if you aren't making any money.
"There's nothing minority about the rent we have to pay in this place," he said, and the success of minority frims cannot depend on tokenism from what Graves calls "mainstream business." He said an advertiser may buy one act in a black magazine as a gesture or a company may hire one black employee but the continued success of depends on "getting the job done."
A one-time aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Graves started a management consulting company after Kennedy's death and launched his magazine, Black Enterprise, in 1970.
Today his companies rank 79th on the magazine's own list of the top 100 black businesses, with sales last year of just under $4 million.
Graves talks optimistically about the future of black businesses, citing the growing volume of the top 100 black firm, up 26 per cent in the past year, and the growing role of in companies like ITT.
"But we're just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "And the distance between the tip and the base is getting greater and greater."
He contrasts the recent doubling of the number of blacks entering college with similar increases in unemployment among black youths Recongnition of the need for closing that gap is one reason why blacks are spending more money with black businesses and paying more attention to black advertising, Graves said.
Graves' own company is geared to the tip of the iceberg. Black Enterprise circulates to 200,000 minority business and professional people who make up a highly affluent market.
The families of black Enterprise readers are the target for his next venture, a black "shetler book" called Verve, which will begin publication next year. Like House Beautiful or Apartment Life it will be aimed at upwardly mobile readers who want to improve their lifestyle.