Robert Smith
Private Equity Investor, 2021
Job / Role

Wealthiest Black man in US history with net worth of $11B.  Built one of the largest and most successful private equity investment firms in the country and the largest Black owned by far.


Vista Equity Partners ($96B)


The son of teachers, Robert Smith grew up in Colorado, went to Cornell to study engineering and became a star young banker at Goldman Sachs before striking out on his own to found a private equity investment firm with a wealthy client from Goldman.

The firm used a very precise approach to turning around slow growing software companies and Smith became the wealthiest African-American in history with more than $11B. But then the government started looking at ways to make him a high profile target and nearly brought charges for tax evasion before he creatively and philanthropically pledged to pay off the student loans of an entire graduating class at Morehouse, thereby raising his profile enormously and forcing the government to strike a deal. 

He ultimately agreed to pay $139M to the IRS to stay out of jail under a rare Deferred Prosecution Agreement.  Vista now manages and invests more than $96B in tech companies.


How Billionaire Robert Smith Avoided Indictment in a Multimillion-Dollar Tax Case

How Vista Equity Partners’ boss parlayed connections, charity and cooperation to win a non-prosecution agreement from the Justice Department.


This Billionaire Wants Everyone to Move on From His Crimes

But Robert F. Smith is still embroiled in the largest tax evasion prosecution in U.S. history.


Robert F. Smith Interviews With MSNBC’s Symone Sanders

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