Andrew Young's investment strategy supports equality, justice and peace. "Long-term capital should be invested in a long-term vision," he says, "one that will be profitable for more people over the years to come."
Almost 50 years ago, when Andrew Young was helping to draft the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he had a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that changed his way of thinking forever. "King told me that he admired the Good Samaritan but didn't want to be one," recounts Young. "He didn't want to pick up people by the side of the Jericho Road after they've been beaten and robbed. He wanted to change the Jericho Road."
Young has spent a lifetime changing roads for the better — in his various roles as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leader of the civil rights movement, a congressman, the mayor of Atlanta, and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Today, at 79, he shows no signs of slowing down. His eight-year-old Andrew Young Foundation, created to spread Young's vision of equality, justice and peace, supports initiatives to educate and encourage young people to become ethical leaders.
Along the way, Young has also proved to be an effective fiscal manager. As Atlanta's mayor from 1982 to 1990, he presided over rapid business growth and the transformation of the city's airport into the busiest international hub in the world. In the 1990s, he co-chaired the committee that brought the 1996 Summer Olympics to Atlanta and left the city with a surplus of $100 million. An acclaimed author as well, Young last year published his third book, Walk in My Shoes: Conversations Between a Civil Rights Legend and His Godson on the Journey Ahead, co-written with Kabir Sehgal.
For all his accomplishments, Young dodged personal financial rewards. Aside from saving to put his four children through college, he avoided accumulating wealth. Even after attaining positions on numerous boards of directors, he often sent his payments to church charities, colleges and other organizations. "I was afraid of having money," he says. "Whenever I'd get a bunch of it, I'd give it away. That was part of my credo."
"Our job is to help Andrew invest in causes he considers important," says Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Nasha Dixon.
Then, several years ago, Young had an epiphany. It started when he used some stock options to finance a $60,000 film, Rwanda Rising, which featured Tutsis and Hutus working together 10 years after their horrific civil war. For decades he had been trying to interest heads of state in the growth potential of Africa, with little response. But after the film hit some screens — at the State Department, the World Bank and on international Delta Air Lines flights — Rwanda suddenly appeared on the radar of some of the world's best-known philanthropists, and the Bush administration awarded a $300 million grant to help rebuild the country.
The experience forever altered Young's perspective on his financial life. For the first time he saw that his assets could potentially have a greater impact if he grew them and directed the money toward causes that mattered to him. But this realization also raised a question: How could he arrange his financial life in a way that would help him achieve his humanitarian goals? On the advice of his C.P.A., Young began working with Merrill Lynch. Fully appreciative of Young's legendary role in advancing civil rights in the U.S. and around the world, the Financial Advisors at the Varzi Group have kept Young's values and objectives at the forefront of their advice to him, explains Financial Advisor Michael Varzi. Adds Young: "We agree on the goals and the potential of a free-market economy to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick."
The result has been a strategy that focuses on preservation with the aim of balanced growth, while also leading to decisions that are in line with Young's values. "Ambassador Young has always believed in putting money into things he cares deeply about," says Financial Advisor Nasha Dixon. "Our job is to take his insights and identify tactical opportunities to help him invest in causes he considers important, but in a way that also supports his overall investment strategy." For example, Young wanted to invest in African natural resources to help support the continent's economy while tapping its growth potential. The Merrill Lynch team suggested offsetting those investments with others that could help mitigate the risk, seeing to it that his overall portfolio remains adequately diversified.
Regardless of specific strategies, the conversation inevitably comes back to making the world a better place. "I believe long-term capital should be invested in a long-term vision," Young says, "one that will be profitable for more and more people over the years to come." That's his way of changing the Jericho Road.
Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against a loss in declining markets.
The investment strategies discussed are not appropriate for every investor and should be considered given a person's investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs. Clients should review with their Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor the terms, conditions and risks involved with specific products and services.
Investment in natural resource industries can be significantly affected by events relating to those industries such as variations in commodities markets, weather, embargoes, disease, international, political and economic developments, the success of exploration projects, tax and other government regulations, as well as other factors.