James rhee@4x

James rhee

Owner & Author
Red Helicopter
Johnson Chair of Entrepreneurship
Howard University

James Rhee is an acclaimed impact investor, founder, CEO, and educator.

James’ leadership story grabbed global attention during his unlikely seven-year tenure as Chairman and first-time CEO at Ashley Stewart, a fashion retailer with deep historical roots in the Black American community. After the financial community turned its back on this twice-bankrupt company, James left the world of private equity and lead the creation of a reimagined ecosystem that blurred boundaries and centered “Kindness and Math,” a combination that fueled an unprecedented transformation and success story. Core to the reinvention was the deep friendship and shared values between the son of Korean immigrants and a predominantly Black female employee group, who placed their mutual trust in each other, learned from one another, and then proceeded to quietly shock the world. Following the conclusion of his tenure as CEO of Ashley Stewart, Howard University invited James to spend time as the Johnson Chair of Entrepreneurship and senior advisor to the Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership.

James’ philosophies and methodologies have been featured by TED Conferences, Brene Brown and Simon Sinek. In addition to his duties at Howard University, James holds appointments at Duke Law School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he serves as Senior Lecturer at Sloan School of Management and Executive-in-Residence and Strategic Advisor at the MIT Leadership Center. He works with some of the world’s leading organizations on human-driven change, broadly defined.

His upcoming book, entitled “red helicopter”, will be published in April 2024 in partnership with Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins that specializes in multi-platform ideas that “transform, inspire, change lives, and influence cultural discussions.” He is working on related film, music, and television projects.

He currently serves as a founding member of the Advisory Council of JP Morgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways, a charter member of Ashoka’s Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur Network, and a board member of Coalition for Asian American Families and Children. He also serves on the Board of Xponance, a $15+ billion asset management and investment firm focused on emerging manager strategies, and is an advisor to numerous leaders across various industries. He formerly served on the Board of Directors of National Retail Federation, where he served as Chair of the Innovation Committee and earned their Power Player Award. The New York Urban League awarded him the Frederick Douglass Award, and he is a former honoree of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program.

He lives outside Boston with his wife and three children. He is an honors graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of Harvard Law Review.

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