Saturday, April 20, 2024

Belks, Close families back big new Charlotte investment group

Veteran N.C. banker Ralph Strayhorn and money manager Tom Hoops started New Republic Partners, a Charlotte-based investment management and wealth advisory business with backing from the Belk, Close and Bowles families. Board members for the company include Raleigh retail-chain owner Art Pope and former N.C. State Treasurer Janet Cowell.

[/media-credit] Thomas K. Hoops, president and COO, and Ralph N. Strayhorn, chairman and CEO of New Republic Partners.

New Republic Partners has $1.35 billion in assets under management, which officials say would make it the sixth-largest Registered Investment Advisory firm in the Carolinas and among the 50 largest in the Southeast. The company also owns Roanoke Rapids-based New Republic Bank and has about 30 employees, about half of them based in Charlotte.

The John M. Belk Endowment, the M.C. Belk Pilon family interests and the Springs-Close-Bowles family interests will be clients and shareholders. The combination brings together heirs of two families that for generations controlled the Belk department store chain and Springs textile empire while exerting enormous influence over civic and business affairs in the Carolinas.

A private equity group bought Belk for $3 billion in 2015. Springs Industries, once the largest textile employer in South Carolina, combined its business with a Brazilian textile company starting in 2001 and no longer manufactures in the Palmetto State.

New Republic Partners plans to offer investment, wealth advisory and credit solutions for individuals, families, endowments,  foundations, and advisors. Investors with $10 million or more are the target market for the firm’s “complete wealth management services,” says Hoops, who is president and chief operating officer. But the business will also market to accredited investors, usually typified as having a net worth of $1 million or more, he said.

“This is a very challenging time to be an investor and their portfolios need to look different than they have historically … with more access to the private markets including private equity and private credit,” Hoops says.

“The alignment of  our professional team, investors, board members and founding family clients creates a strong foundation for the firm,” adds Strayhorn, who is the CEO.

Strayhorn is a former bank CEO who also headed a private consultancy, Cape Point Advisory, that worked with 15 banks during the 2007-09 financial crisis. Hoops is a 35-year veteran of the investment management industry who was a top investment executive at Wells Fargo and predecessor institutions. Most recently, he was a member of the executive committee at Legg Mason Global Asset  Management, where he led global product strategy, M&A and strategic investing.

“The investment team at New Republic Partners brings innovative thinking and a high degree of expertise,” says M.C. Belk Pilon, president and board chair of the John M. Belk  Endowment. She will be a member of New Republic’s board along with Sam Bowles, who is joining the business as a managing director. He is the son of former Springs Industries CEO Crandall Bowles and Erskine Bowles, a Charlotte investment banker and a former UNC System president. Pilon is the daughter of the late John and Claudia Belk. John Belk was a former Charlotte mayor who led Belk Store Services for many years, while Claudia Belk was a local district court judge.

“We partnered with New Republic Partners because they expanded our capabilities in ways that other asset managers and advisors could not,” Sam Bowles said in a release.

New Republic’s staff includes people who have worked for the Belk and Close family offices, overseeing their investments.

Having a small commercial bank gives New Republic broader opportunities, Strayhorn says. The company converted a former savings bank started in 1988, which has offices in Roanoke Rapids, Burlington and Rocky Mount, into a state-charted bank that is a subsidiary of New Republic’s holding company. Other parts of the business include the advisory firm and a broker-dealer, New Republic Securities.



David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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