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After a storied career that’s spanned many arenas, Richard Parsons is glad to be moving along. But don’t call it retirement. He has too much going on in his life.

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But, he says, “there is an almost bred-in-the-bone in America prejudice that manifests itself almost institutionally.” He cites his time as a lawyer, when he was for a while a hiring partner and recruited African-Americans to diversify his firm. “And one of the things I noticed was that if a kid who is from the middle of the class at Harvard, white kid, would come in and you give an assignment, and half of them would trip over their first assignment, and you’d sit down with them, and it was almost bred in everybody’s expectations, we know you’re a Harvard guy, let’s work with you, you didn’t get this right, and you’d forgive them their first or second less-than-stellar outing.” For “a black kid, not so. So I learned to tell all these young black associates, you really need to nail your first outings, and get help if you want to. Because what would happen is if a black kid turned in something that was not right, you could just see it in people’s faces—there, you knew they couldn’t do it.”
At Providence Equity Partners, he’s a senior adviser. “I spent years in my professional life in the media and entertainment business,” which is a focus of the private equity investment firm. “So I know all the players. I know most of the businesses. And in an advisory way I can help them target investments.” 
The Grand Havana Room, he says, “is a very elegant and romantic setting.” Stanley Shuster, the owner—there’s also one in Beverly Hills—has created “a very comfortable, spacious place.” There’s “an excellent kitchen, a nice bar scene and a great humidor. It’s an oasis, a great place to just relax and have a cigar, and take a break from the madness of the city.” It’s also a stylish spot for meeting people with similar interests, entertaining friends and clients and holding business meetings.
The club has nearly 900 members, he says. A recommendation is required; there’s a membership committee and a waiting list of about a year.
Parsons and his wife Laura—they’ve been married 44 years—live in Tribeca. They have three children and two grandchildren.
What about the future? “Everybody assumes because you used to play at a certain level you want to stay there. I don’t. I think of my career almost like a relay race. I got the stick, I ran my leg and I’ve now handed off the stick. I can go into the stands and cheer for the team, but that’s it. I’m not on the track anymore professionally. I’m on my personal track.”
The vineyard gives him a great deal of pleasure, as does Minton’s. “And doing something in public education.” He is also “doing some stuff in Africa. We started a little fund, PanAfrican Investment Co., working with certain African governments on what I call nation-building. Some friends [including billionaire philanthropist Ronald Lauder] and I, we’ve put a few bucks together—we’re working principally in Rwanda right now but we’re going to be spreading out through sub-Saharan Africa—and we’re doing some investments focusing mostly on infrastructure, because, technology notwithstanding, if you don’t have power, if you don’t have clean water, if you don’t have roads, if you don’t have railroads, you can’t build a country.”
Anything more? He smiles, that big, wide smile. “Hanging out with my grandchildren.” v

Mervyn Rothstein is a regular contributor to
Cigar Aficionado.
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