James Rhee

Mr. Rhee is an impact-focused entrepreneur, investor, operator and educator. As both CEO and investment firm founder, Mr. Rhee has generated market-leading returns by designing and executing upon bespoke capital (financial and human) and operational solutions that involve the seamless application of contemporaneous algorithmic, technological, branding and cultural change.  He has forged a uniquely diverse and global network, knowledge base and track record that span the private equity, retail/consumer, venture and media/technology communities.

At Ashley Stewart, as Chairman and CEO and investor, Mr. Rhee has authored and led an innovative and progressive complement of marketing, philosophical and mathematical changes that have transformed a twice bankrupt, unprofitable brick-and-mortar retailer with decades of operating losses into an industry leader founded upon a values-based, social commerce paradigm.  FirePine Group, the investment firm he founded in 2009, invests the capital of some of the world’s most sophisticated investors and their family offices to successfully fuel and realize transformative and impactful change in multiple enterprises, including Ashley Stewart.

Prior to this, Mr. Rhee was a senior investment professional at two leading, Boston-based investment firms, one specializing in growth (JW Childs Associates) and the other focused on distress (Gordon Brothers).  He has managed billions of dollars of capital and served as a board director at a myriad of different enterprises at various stages of growth.  Mr. Rhee played a leadership role in some of the most successful investment platforms, notably the carve-out of the Meow Mix brand from Ralston Purina, the purchase and then turnaround of Murray’s Discount Auto Stores from a bank group, the growth catalyst investment in Mattress Firm and the turnaround of Ultra Diamonds.  Mr. Rhee also spent time as an Associate in the Mergers and Acquisitions group of Merrill Lynch.

Mr. Rhee has been a visiting lecturer at Duke Law School since 2016, where he teaches his proprietary valuation, financial literacy and joy/goodwill class.  He has provided the keynote remarks at the signature conferences across several industries, and he has been invited to address the communities of the leading educational institutions and professional organizations (for profit and not-for-profit) across the globe, including McKinsey & Company, Salesforce, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Spelman College, Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose and CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion.  Mr. Rhee is a frequent speaker on multi-dimensional transformation, the intersection of business and society, and values-based investing and leadership.

Mr. Rhee is a member of the board of the National Retail Federation, where he also chairs the Innovation Advisory Committee, and a member of JP Morgan’s Advancing Black Pathways Council.  His story, along with the story of Ashley Stewart, has been chronicled in the world’s leading publications and media outlets, including the Good Business Issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, Harvard Business Review, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Thrive Global, USA Today, Inc Magazine, ABC, Cheddar, Forbes, Women’s Wear Daily, Morgan Stanley’s Access and Opportunity Podcast with Carla Harris, and the Huffington Post.

Mr. Rhee is a regional winner of the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the winner of one of five 2016 Power Player Awards granted by the National Retail Federation, the recipient of the 2017 Black Retail Action Group Business Achievement Award, the 2018 Temple Fox School of Business Information Technology Innovator Award, the 2018 Essex County Urban League Centennial William M. Ashby Award for community building and a 2019 One To World Fulbright Award.

Mr. Rhee received his AB with honors from Harvard College and his JD with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He lives outside Boston with his wife and three children.  He is a former high school teacher.

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