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Updated: June 3, 2019

Price a pioneer in investment field diversity, and an ‘angel’ of giving

Photo | J. Fiereck Photography
JoAnn H. Price  Co-founder & Managing Partner, Fairview Capital Size of organization: $9.6 billion under management Education: Bachelor’s degree, Howard University, Washington D.C. Previous job(s): President, National Association of Investment Companies
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When JoAnn H. Price was president of the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC) in the early 1990s, she expected to support, not lead, a new fund of funds that would seek to raise and then steer more institutional capital to ethnically and gender diverse investment professionals and their funds.

Directors of NAIC, a Washington, D.C.-based association of diverse-owned private equity firms, had promoted formation of the fund and when Price was asked to head it — what would later become West Hartford-based Fairview Capital Partners Inc. — she initially declined, happy in her NAIC role. She later agreed and in 1992 set out to raise $100 million from institutional investors, a challenging 2½-year endeavor.

Price took the role because she believed in the mission.

“I had a belief system and you can’t really do anything, I don’t think, successfully, like that — a startup or whatever it is — without a belief system,” said Price, 68, who cofounded Fairview in 1994 with Laurence C. Morse.

The co-managing partners have built one of the country’s largest minority-owned private equity investment management firms with aggregate fund capitalization of $9.6 billion since inception. Fairview manages the investments through fund of funds, customized separate accounts and other structures — all with a diverse local staff of 25 and three in San Francisco. It also helps clients manage private equity portfolios.

Fairview invests on behalf of institutional investors in the private market: in private equity, buyout funds and venture capital funds nationwide, including emerging and diverse-led firms and best-in-class VC firms. It also does direct co-investing. Fairview clients include pension plans, foundations, endowments, family offices and high-net-worth individuals.

While Fairview invests in more than emerging and diverse managers and their funds, it has never lost sight of its founding premise.

“Fairview was a first in that sense in terms of talking about the importance of diversity, talking about the importance of looking at talent across all ethnic and gender lines,” expanding investment opportunities without lowering return, Price said.

“In fact, it’s just the opposite, it’s going to enhance the return because we’re broadening the landscape of opportunity and that was, I think, something that institutional investors had not heard so much and that’s what we were proudly espousing,” she recalled.

“Today, that has become a hallmark,” and institutional investors ask those diversity questions when seeking their business, Price said.

Diverse investment professionals and their funds, while also investing more broadly, are more likely to invest in diverse entrepreneurs and companies, as well.

Reflecting on the challenges launching Fairview and raising its first fund, Price now realizes she persevered because of her insatiable curiosity and “discovery-type mindset,” plus her belief in Fairview’s mission outweighed fear of failure.

“I think that’s something that people should really think about because everybody has talent, everybody has something that’s unique to them, that enables them to do great things,” she said.

Values-driven organization

Price, who grew up in North Wales, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., became a legislative assistant in the office of U.S. Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania before becoming vice president of NAIC and later president.

She’s married to James Price, a retired estate and gift tax attorney. They have three grown children.

Kola Olofinboba, who joined Fairview in 2007 as a principal and became a managing partner in 2015, extolled Price and the company and culture she and Morse created.

Fairview is a values-driven organization and Price leads by example, he said, noting longtime staff at Fairview who have invested their careers there.

“A lot of that is coming straight down from JoAnn,” he said.

“She is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful person,” Olofinboba said. “I have never met another human being like JoAnn Price. The breadth of her undertaking, of her accomplishment, her humanity, her generosity, her confidence, her empathy — if there are human angels, JoAnn is an angel.”

Her many causes include chairing the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving; chairing the board of trustees at Union Baptist Church of Hartford, where she’s also been a deacon; serving on the Trinity Health of New England board; the Howard University board of visitors; Apollo Theater Foundation board; and being former chair of the Amistad Center for Art & Culture in Hartford. She’s also been active with the YMCA of Greater Hartford and its Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center, where her work placed her among 12 White House honorees in 2013 as YMCA “Champions of Change” for efforts transforming communities.

Ted Sergi, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving vice chairman, said Price is a quick study of an organization’s or society’s problems and is “the most relentless and unyielding person in terms of her passion for wanting to help those who have the greatest struggle.”

It’s a “great combination,” he said. “She’s just relentless about saying we can do better than that.”

Price doesn’t get involved in community causes for recognition, Olofinboba said.

“She just does it … and she pushes the rest of us (at Fairview) to do it as well,” he said, citing her refrain, “‘If you have talent, you have to share it.’”

Price said the benefit is mutual.

“I think it makes the company better and I think it makes the individual certainly better and really understanding what’s going on in our larger community — and that’s been a part of Fairview’s perspective from the beginning,” she said.

On the job

Guiding business principle: Treat people equally and decently.

Best way to keep your competitive edge: Create and build relationships.

Proudest accomplishment: Building and maintaining an entrepreneurial business culture at Fairview Capital.

Favorite part of the job: The people

Least favorite part of the job: Legal documents

Personal touch in your office: Pictures and cards

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Moving to Connecticut to start Fairview Capital

Best way to spot trends: Good listening and observation skills

Next big move: Expand the West Coast office

Your pet peeve: Long rambling meetings and speeches

Personal side

City of residence: Avon

Favorite way to relax: Find a quiet place

Hobbies: Travel

Last vacation: Florida

Favorite movie: Lincoln

The car you drive: Infinity

Currently reading: Business journals

Favorite cause: Children and youth

Second choice career: Social worker


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