Don Barden, the first African American to own a Las Vegas casino and the first to own a major cable TV franchise, has died.
Barden built homes in Detroit and a business in Namibia. Ebony magazine, the TBS cable network, Black Entertainment Television and Black Enterprise magazine have all honored him as a top national business leader. He most recently won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Michigan Chronicle newspaper and an Award of Excellence from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund in 2006.
He started Barden Cablevision and 1979 and transformed it into one of the nation’s biggest black-owned businesses, selling it in 1994 to Comcast. Then, in 2001, he became the first black person to own a Las Vegas casino.
“Don Barden was a pioneer of his time, and an inspiration to not only the local business community, but to everyone he touched throughout his business ventures,” Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said in a statement.
Barden’s casino empire included the Majestic Star company; two casino boats in Gary, Ind.; and Fitzgerald casinos in Las Vegas, Tunica, Miss., and Black Hawk, Colo. “I want to leave a legacy,” he continued. “I want to have a company that will go on for many years after I’m gone, which has not often been the case among most African-American businesses.”
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement: “Don was a stalwart leader and businessman in this community, as well as a friend. We were aware of his longtime illness and dreaded this day. We send our condolences to his family.”
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano described Barden as a successful businessman who maintained a concern for the welfare of Detroit. “He stood as a role model and mentor for those who wanted to be successful in business through hard work and perseverance,” Ficano said. “He has made countless contributions to the quality of life in this area and will be remembered for his generosity.”
Barden, who was fighting lung cancer, was 67.
Read more at the Detroit Free Press.