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DAC Members Elect First Black President in Club’s 135-year History

Derron Sanders, the newly elected president of the Detroit Athletic Club, is a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors and a Class XXII graduate of Leadership Detroit.


Crain’s Detroit Business
Sherri Welch
Feb. 8, 2022

Members of the Detroit Athletic Club have elected its first Black president in its 135-year-history.

Derron Sanders, chief executive officer of Southfield-based SG Cos., was elected to a second, three-year term on the DAC’s board and will take the top seat in 2024 for a one-year term, per the club’s regular officer rotation schedule.

He is currently serving as the second vice president or self-described “president-elect-elect.”

His win of the DAC board presidency during the Jan. 25 election comes 43 years after Black members were first admitted to the elite networking and social club in 1979, according to HistoricDetroit.org.

It’s a testament to how far the DAC has come, Sanders said in an email to Crain’s.

“My becoming the first African American president of the DAC will be a historical moment in 2024. But as with most historical moments, it comes years after the hard work and perseverance of those that came before us that helped pave the way,” Sanders said.

Sanders, 48, said the DAC’s first African American board members helped set the stage for him.

“As excited as I am … I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank those whose shoulders I stand on,” Sanders said. “Having said that, I believe that the club’s membership expressed their confidence in me and others because we were the best candidates.”

About a third, or 1,100, of the DAC’s 3,400 voting members voted in this year’s election, Executive Manager Charles Johnson said in an email to Crain’s.

“The Detroit Athletic Club is more than just a place to go. We are a place to be a part of a community (that) shares the same values and driving belief that the connections we make in life are what matter,” he said. “I am excited for the future of the DAC and look forward to working with Mr. Sanders to continue enriching the lives of the community we are in.”

Sanders said he didn’t set out to join the club’s board when he joined the DAC as an intermediate member in 2000. He joined to stay in shape, network, and have a place to dine downtown, but the DAC quickly became so much more, he said.

Around the same time that he joined the DAC, Sanders set out on his own to found SG Cos., a privately held investment adviser to institutional and private investors. The company, which recently celebrated 20 years in business, has executed real estate, energy and private equity projects in 35 countries, according to the election information provided to DAC members.

“Being a DAC member helped me with this transition as I always had a network of individuals to bounce ideas off, share a word of encouragement and/or share pitfalls, challenges and successes that I learned from,” Sanders said. “I’m convinced that my joining the DAC has been instrumental to my and my family’s success.”

The connections he’s made at the DAC have also benefited him as a person, Sanders said.

The club became a place he connected with like-minded people looking to improve themselves, their businesses, health, lives, others’ lives, Detroit, and the country. Inspired by others who were always striving, he got more involved at the DAC.

In addition to participating in numerous athletic and social club activities, he served as the 2018 president of Blackballers, the collective name for racket sports at the DAC. He’s also served on the Michigan High School Athlete of the Year committee since 2015. And he was a member of the 3Bs Golf and Old Club Outing Committee and Basketball League Commissioner in 2013-15, according to DAC election information shared with members.

More recently, as a member of the DAC’s board, he helped guide the DAC’s COVID-19 pandemic response and other strategic priorities as chair of its strategic planning committee since 2020.

Outside of the DAC, Sanders serves on the executive committee of First Independence Bank, and on the boards of the Detroit Regional Chamber and Alma College. He also founded SG Cares, a nonprofit that helps underprivileged children attain higher education.

Sanders has a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Michigan State University and a master of business administration from Wayne State University.

Sanders is hopeful his election as the DAC’s first African American president will open doors for anyone who wants to be a club member.

“I am hopeful that all businessmen and businesswomen in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, that have the desire, passion and skill to lead will share their talents with the DAC, regardless of their ethnicity or gender,” he said.

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