J. Donald Rice (1958–)

J. Donald (Don) Rice Jr. is founder, president, and chief executive officer of Rice Financial Products Company in New York, the only minority-owned derivatives firm in the nation. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003.

James Donald Rice Jr. was born on August 22, 1958, to the Reverend James Donald Rice Sr. and Ellen Rice. He has an older sister, Donnellda. In 1962, his family moved from Kansas City, Missouri, to Hot Springs (Garland County). His father founded and served as the pastor of Roanoke Baptist Church and was president of the Hot Springs chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ellen Rice funded and operated the first Head Start program in Hot Springs. She died when Rice was seven years old.

After several failed efforts to enroll in the all-white Jones Elementary School, Rice and his sister eventually attended Eastside Elementary School, where they were the first African-American students to attend. Rice was also a student at Central Junior High School for a short time, becoming the first seventh-grade student elected as student-body vice president. After a decade in Arkansas, Rice and his family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and then eventually to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Central High School, a prestigious Philadelphia all-boys public school.

Rice attended Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, and graduated with honors in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. He worked at General Motors as an automotive manufacturing engineer for several years before receiving a full scholarship to Harvard University School of Business. Rice became interested in securities while studying finance. He graduated with an MBA with distinction.

In 1985, Rice began working for the public finance department at Merrill Lynch. He was one of the founding members of the Municipal Derivatives Products Group, which developed large, complex bond refunding techniques to reduce the borrowing costs for state and local governments, specifically the District of Columbia. This technique was named an Institutional Investor Deal of the Year and became a common Wall Street practice. He spent a short time with Bankers Trust.

Rice secured his foothold in the derivatives market in 1993 when he founded Rice Financial Products Co. (RFP) in New York City. The company focused on borrowing for municipal governments. He expanded the company later that year with the formation of Rice Securities LLC, headquartered in Houston, Texas. This expansion included safe and customized debt management and investment products and returns for municipalities. In 1998, Rice led the company’s acquisition of minority-owned brokerage company Apex Securities and gained a significant share of the southwestern United States. The next year, RFP expanded further into the northeastern United States through the acquisition of Pryor, McClendon, Counts & Co. (PMC), the oldest black-owned investment bank in the country.

Apex and PMC were combined to form a new subsidiary, Apex Pryor Securities, Inc. The company continued to expand in the twenty-first century by opening additional offices across the country, tripling the number of trading professionals employed and hiring experienced bond bankers from firms such as Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. In 2015, RFP held ten percent of municipal and state government borrowing throughout the country and was notably the largest investor for historically black colleges and universities. Rice continues to underwrite bonds for municipalities and non-profit organizations, including educational institutions. He currently serves as president and chief executive officer for RFP.

Rice and his business enterprises have received a number of awards over the years. In 2000, RFP was named Black Enterprise Magazine’s Financial Company of the Year. Rice has twice been named among Black Enterprise Magazine’s “75 Most Powerful on Wall Street,” in 2011 and 2014. The National Association of Securities Professionals selected him as the 2002 Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2004, Fortune Magazine featured him in “The New Black Power of Wall Street.” He was also inducted into National Commission for Cooperative Education for 2009.

Rice was appointed by New York governor David Paterson to serve on the board of directors of the New York State Thruway Authority and confirmed in May 2010. He became the chair of the Audit Committee for the New York State Canal Corporation, with his tenure ending in June 2018.

Rice has served on the board of directors for New York City’s United Neighborhood Houses, as the chair of the Finance Committee for Board of Trustees for Kettering University, and on the governing board for New York City’s Administration for Children Services, which oversees the New York City Head Start programs.

Rice supports a number of organizations, nonprofits, and institutions, including the National Urban League, Summer on the Hill, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He is also a licensed pilot, frequently flying small planes around the New Jersey area.

For additional information:
Cintron, Ivan. “Rocket Scientists with Attitude.” Black Enterprise, June 1, 2000. http://www.blackenterprise.com/mag/rocket-scientists-with-attitude/ (accessed September 1, 2017).

Robbie K. Gill
Central Arkansas Library System


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