Skip to main content

Shea Moisture Sells Large Stake to an Investment Firm, Naturals Express Disappointment

• Sep 12, 2015

shea-moisture

Earlier this week internationally known household brand Shea Moisture announced a new partnership with Bain Capital.

Yes, Mitt Romney’s Bain.

Although details are still unfurling, this much we do know:

- Bain Capital is a minority, non-controlling investor in Sundial Brands (the umbrella brand under which both Shea Moisture and Nubian Heritage fall)

- Richielou Dennis is still CEO, and his other family members still remain in their respective executive positions (Chief Operations Officer, Treasurer, Chief Innovations Officer)

- Shea Moisture is still a majority family owned company

Like many fellow naturalistas, I thought I was having a nightmare when I read stories from Wall Street Journal and Clutch Magazine. This absolutely cannot be Carol’s Daughter 2.0. The first words that came out of my mouth were, “Damn, can we have anything?

I found that I was not alone. Across social media, discussions popped up questioning the move, and emotions ran the gamut of the spectrum – from encouraging and congratulatory, to suspicious, hurt and disappointed. At first, I was upset. Then, after listening to Richielou Dennis’ Hangout, I was less disappointed. After doing some digging on Bain Capital, I got a little concerned. And that’s where I am now – accepting, but with some heavy reservations.

Off the cuff, I appreciate Dennis and Shea Moisture’s transparency in the deal. Not only did they release a statement via Facebook (and they’ve been incredibly responsive in the comment section), Dennis hopped on a Google+ Hangout with Naturally Curly founder and CEO Michelle Bryer, where he tackled the tough questions and top concerns with an honesty and poise that came across as thoughtful and sincere. I detected a hint of shade toward another brand that sold out earlier in 2014 (which made me chuckle), but I appreciated Dennis’ ability to articulate the difference in how Sundial is handling the matter.

The Hangout can be viewed below but here are some cliffs notes I grabbed from watching:

Sundial has been courted by many businesses seeking to invest and/or buy them out, but they chose Bain because they are a partner with a proven record of supporting mission-driven business.

Shea Moisture has not been sold or bought out. The family still owns the majority and controls executive and day-to-day operations.

There will be no formula changes in products because they make their own products and control all of their own manufacturing. They are already the lowest cost manufacturer in their industry, so there is no benefit in switching manufacturers (the most common reason for formulation changes).

The company understands the criticism, due to what Black consumers have experienced in the marketplace before. Bringing on an investor does not mean Sundial will be abandoning their core customers. It allows them to compete on a broader scale against other multi-national corporations who didn’t pay attention to the beauty needs of Black women until very recently. Again, they are not abandoning Black women – but they recognize that since Black women have been given the best in the industry via Sundial, women of other backgrounds are interested in that same access as well.

Sundial Brands is a pioneer in the beauty industry, having brought excellence on a broad scale to the Black beauty space, out of their belief that Black Women deserve access to everything great in personal care and beauty. Bain Capital investing in Sundial will allow them as a Black, family (majority) owned business to grow, scale and provide greater and more innovative products and resources to Black women.

Dennis says, “We did this for you”, driving home the idea that Sundial did not sell out, but is rather showing that there is a different way for brands to grow, scale their efforts, and remain relevant. He highlighted brands like Karl Kinai that were innovators in urban fashion, but could not retain the capital to stay at the forefront of their industry. Sundial wants to be the innovator that continues to own the space in which they created.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s deal with the real-real. You guys should know by now that I like to fact-check ev-ery-thang. The first question Dennis addressed was related to Mitt Romney’s involvement in Bain, and therefore Sundial. Dennis explained that Romney is not at Bain Capital in any active fashion, and has not been in 16 plus years.  My immediate thought was, Richielou, would you found Sundial, stay 15 years to run it, and then leave empty-handed when all is said and done? Absolutely not, right? Why would you or anyone else expect Romney to do so? In fact, according to this article from Forbes, Romney left Bain with a retirement package that gave him a share of profits from all Bain funds through 2009, and the right to invest Bain funds. Currently, he holds stakes in dozens of Bain funds worth over $52 million.

Concerning, but not overwhelmingly so. As much as I would love to avoid purchasing or supporting anything tied to companies or individuals I ethically oppose, it’s virtually impossible to do so due to fragmentation in manufacturing. I’m sure there are at least a dozen problems with the keyboard I’m using to type this article. The real issue for me is the ethics of Bain Capital, and what happens to companies after they’ve invested.

The water gets a little murky. From my limited (very limited to be honest, because I’m neither an economist, financial analyst, or even remotely considering an MBA) understanding, Bain Capital is a private equity firm that seeks to maximize profits in new, developing and struggling companies. Private equity firms typically target slow-growth market leaders and focus aggressively on leveraged buyouts that result in extreme cost-cutting measures for the business to be able to repay the debt laid on it by the firm. The end result is that the companies find it difficult to remain competitive, because the capital that would have gone toward innovation, development, and expansion is used to pay off the company’s debt.

To put a lid on that brief lesson, let’s consider this: from 1988 to 1997, Bain Capital invested millions in Sage Stores, American Pad & Paper, GS Industries, Dade Behring, and Details. All of them filed for bankruptcy by 2003. This information may seem a bit dated, but it is telling.

Sundial has made it clear that they have not been bought out by Bain, but rather that Bain has invested in them at an undisclosed, non-controlling minority percentage. Perhaps that will be the difference, and perhaps Sundial will truly show us a new way for Black business to grow and expand without selling out and selling themselves short. I hope to be able to take Richielou Dennis and Sundial at their word and see the brand blossom in the years to come.

I just wish it could have been accomplished with Black dollars.

What are your thoughts on the Sundial and Bain Capital partnership?

About Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

Leave a Reply

40 Comments on "Shea Moisture Sells Large Stake to an Investment Firm, Naturals Express Disappointment"

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
R Says
Guest

THIS is how it always begins…

cb
Guest

so true

Kayla V.
Guest

So, basically…more money. They now have a backer but they’re doing the same ol’. That’s good. I’m mainly just concerned about prices. I don’t use as much SM as I used to but cannot afford what I do use to rise in price!

Shay
Guest

I’m happy to learn of this information and get clarity. Carol’s Daughter was the first thing that popped in my mind and I was prepared to find another effective dandruff shampoo. I know the company says it plans on not changing ingredients, but I’m still apprehensive on how the quality of the products will remain once they gain that larger market share.

lovehatebeauty2010 .
Guest

The article states that SM is currently the lowest cost manufacturer in the industry doing what they do. That’s why there is no need for quality or ingredients changes. If it ain’t broke, they’re not gonna try to fix it.

AJ
Guest

I’m no business person but right now I’m trusting that they made a smart business move. The same people still own it, they say the formulas aren’t changing. I’m not gonna knock them for trying to grow their business. They are trying to stay competitive and are looking ahead. Good for them. And yes I want to support black businesses, but for them to restrict themselves to only using “black dollars” is silly. We aren’t the only ones with money.

Beans
Guest
This seems like a business decision more than a personal one. Obviously you’re expressing your opinion here and relaying the sentiment of people posting online, but not all black people are Democrats who hate Mitt Romney (I happen to think he lead Massachusetts very well, and during his time as governor he was able to maintain bipartisan support) and don’t want to buy anything associated with a corporation. As consumers we should know about how many hands things pass before they get to us. I do try to avoid too many chemicals and would rather buy from companies that don’t… Read more »
FineNaturalHairandFaith
Guest

very well said.

DrSelina
Guest
Well, I disagree. I am from Flint, Mi, born and raised. Mitt Romney’s company, Bain, started by buying a small share in AC Delco, a company that had a worldwide name and an amazing reputation. They then slowly purchased more and more shares, all in the name of “improving and restructuring”. In the end, they restructured my dad into an early retirement, decreased pension, and reduced benefits. My aunts, uncles, dad, and cousins, as well as thousands of other Flint-stones lost their jobs while Mitt Romney and his cronies walked away with millions. Where AC Delco once stood stands a… Read more »
uhoh-ohno
Guest

I agree. Bringing up Romney was so asinine.

monkeys
Guest

Carols’ Daughter 2.0.…I’m waiting on Karen’ s Body Beautiful to turn

Stephanie Egenti
Guest

I know i shouldnt be saying this but as long as shea moisture doesnt change it formula i dont really care who owns the company. Shea moisture is literally my whole hair regimen!!!

Dee
Guest

Great article!

TWA4now
Guest

It is a bit disappointing 🙁 I, too, wish they could’ve used black dollars. …we shall see what the future holds for them…GOOD THINGS I HOPE!

Katie Washington Cole
Guest
Katie Washington Cole

Girl, this article is excellent. Thank you for your factchecking and balanced coverage.

Myllee
Guest

With all these Black multi-millionaires why are the backers in Black owned business always non Black though?

Jakarri Demery
Guest

Because how many of those black multi-millionaires understand international business?This was not purely a money deal, but a deal that helps them with the expertise that Bain can provide. Not to mention the access to people and networks that might have been closed. It’s just like getting a job, it’s about who you know sometimes. Many people do business with Romney that have otherwise not even heard of Shea Moisture.

Myllee
Guest

At contrary to the popular belief most Black people who are millionaire/billionaire come from a business background.

Jakarri Demery
Guest

Ah, international business.…operating in other countries outside of the U.
S is tough, many intricate dealings.…..not knocking any black millionaires, but sometimes not doing business with others to try and maintain 100% black owned label is stupid.

Cassandre Devotion Davilmar
Guest
Cassandre Devotion Davilmar

What! This is great! I need to write a thought piece about this. I forwarded this news to BGLH about 2 weeks ago. I think Shea Moisture is doing the right thing. It is in control of its company. Bain is highly respected and has the ability to make Shea Moisture a world wide brand. It sounds to me like Shea Moisture plans on being the next L’Oreal, and it can do this with Bain’s support. Shea Moisture is still a black owned company!

FragranceObsessed
Guest

I wish the investors could have been black as well. But such that it is, I will continue to purchase the products until things change for the worst. Whatever that may be.…

Cosita
Guest

SM has done a lot of expanding. That takes capital. I understand. Glad they still have controlling share.

lovehatebeauty2010 .
Guest
And whose Black dollars could have been used? No counter “black-owned” businesses that could have invested were listed in this article. CD tried it and still had to file bankruptcy and still chose to get acquired, as it made the most financial (and logical) sense for longevity of the business. It doesn’t make sense to lay out all the facts in a logical position and still have an emotional “salty” response at the end. Ultimately that means the understanding of how this works still isn’t there. Businesses open and close all the time, mergers ever the more prevalent, and bankruptcy… Read more »
brianna
Guest

So does this mean their prices will go down now that they got a backer?

sweet november
Guest

July 29, 2017. I went to several stores lately and the Shea Moisture products have risen $2 to $3 dollars.

Juno
Guest
Truth be told: People do business to become rich… they often start in an very indie way with ideals, then the growth takes place, they get into the big arena and have the choice to die, to sell or to partner…what we know now is that it won’t be FUBU anymore and that some chemicals or less natural ingredients may sneak their way into the products to make them less expensive to produce and make more money…maybe it. We don’t know but I first never really believed that it was just a little woman in Africa and her family shipping… Read more »
eljjai
Guest

here comes the petroleum in the products…

Blahblah
Guest

Lol “black dollars”? Are you actually serious? If you don’t like the change, stick to other brands, or make your own stuff. Black dollars lmaoo

Pa' Preon
Guest

Male your own stuff” Shea Moisture IS our own stuff and OUR black dollars built this BLACK COMPANY up.

Guest
Guest

It’s the “black dollars” that got Shea Moisture to where it is…along with a plethora of other “black owned” brands.

“Make your own stuff”–that’s precisely what we’re doing with our “Black dollars lmaoo”.

trackback

[…] I’m doing my usual scroll through Tumblr, and posts are coming back-to-back about Sundial Brands, LLC selling shares of the company to Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Excuse […]

elle
Guest

I appreciated the thorough, investigative nature of this article. I am not black myself, but I care about the brand much, as I use their products. The company is really unlike any other in the sense that they use ingredients actually made to do what they say. Mainstream products can be just as and often more expensive, with much lower quality. Definitely an article that I can appreciate, thanks.

Imsoinsane0bitch2011
Guest

Yep, im done buying from them also. Black entrepreneurs need to value there products and never settle for a cost when it comes to these devils. I wouldn’t trust anything more they have to say about what changes there might not be to the products; white people do not know how to tell the truth especially when it comes to making money and this dude has proven to be a sell out. I’m going to get a petition going in my area to get this shit banned from our beauty supply stores.

anti galleta
Guest

I wouldn’t trust anything more they have to say about what changes there might not be to the products; white people do not know how to tell the truth especially when it comes to making money…”

Correct and let us fast foward to today.….…..smh

trackback

[…] about the company’s compromising since at least 2015, when they changed their formula and sold a large stake of the company to Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, a company that garnered much scrutiny during the 2012 […]

Clayre Huckstable
Guest

As mentioned in the article, The Richelieu family still owns the majority of the company. I understand the sentiment behind wanting Black owned companies to be 100% Black owned. However, in order for that to happen, companies need Black venture capitalists and angel investors to invest in their companies. There aren’t enough large Black owned investment firms to make that happen for every company.

Courtney H.
Guest

I disagree with this statement. I believe that black businesses should be 100% black owned. I don’t get it! Why do we always sell our businesses and products to these people?! Why do we do that?! White people have never sold black people anything that they benefit from. Shea Moisture could’ve asked several wealthy well-known black people to be venture capitalists for him. Oprah, Bob Johnson, Beyonce, Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Tyler Perry, just to name a few.

trackback

[…] To  read more on SheaMoisture/ Bain Capital: Shea Moisture Sells Large Stake To An Investment Firm, Naturals Express Disappointment […]

Debbie Fuller
Guest

I am just done. So sick of this. So many said the NH movement was just a phase. NOT! It will pass! NOT! We (black women) spend lots of money on our hair. Yes true statement, however I will spend my money only with black owed companies or make my own or go back to my roots (oil/water/conditioner). Black women we have the power to demand respect from these businesses. It is all about money. Where is the proof that they are concerned about our communities.

Lena CALHOUN
Guest

I can you tell me what is best product too to s used I am tried to discuss what I’d best product best seller

Shopping Cart