Robert L. Johnson

Robert L. Johnson
Born Robert Louis Johnson
(1946-04-08) April 8, 1946
Hickory, Mississippi, U.S.
Alma mater University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (BA)
Princeton University (MPA)
Known for Founder of BET
Net worth US$ 3 Billion[1]
Website Official website

Robert Louis "Bob" Johnson (born April 8, 1946) is an African American entrepreneur, media magnate, executive, philanthropist and investor.[1][2][3][4][5][6] He is the founder of BET, which was sold to Viacom in 2001.[2][3] He also founded RLJ Companies, a holding company that invests in various business sectors.[3][7] Johnson is the former majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.[8] He became the first black American billionaire.[1][9]

Early life and education

Johnson was born in 1946 in Hickory, Mississippi, the ninth out of ten children to Edna and Archie Johnson.[3][4] His mother was a schoolteacher and his father a farmer.[3] His parents moved the family to Freeport, Illinois when he was a child.[3] He attended Freeport High School, where he was an honors student.[3][4] Johnson graduated from the University of Illinois in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in social studies.[3][4] While at the University of Illinois, Johnson was a member of the Beta chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.[4] He received a master's degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1972.[3][4]

Business career

After graduating Princeton he found a job in Washington, D.C. that introduced him to the television industry. He served as the public affairs director for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In this position is where he learned of the power and untapped potential of television. Around the same time he also worked as the director of communications for the Washington, D.C. office of the National Urban League.[10] Johnson worked as a press secretary for Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy.[4][11][12] He later became vice president of government relations at the National Cable and Television Association.[4][11][12] In 1980, Johnson launched Black Entertainment Television.[4][11]

Black Entertainment Television

Johnson left NCTA in 1979 to create Black Entertainment Television, the first cable television network aimed at African-Americans.[11][13] When the network launched in 1980, it only aired for two hours on Friday night.[4][11] BET first turned a profit in 1985 and it became the first black-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991.[11][13] In 1998, Johnson and Liberty Media bought all outstanding shares of the company.[13][14] This purchase gave Johnson 42% of the company.[13][14] Viacom acquired BET in 2000 for a reported $3 billion.[3][11][13] Johnson remained BET CEO until 2006.[11]

The RLJ Companies

Johnson founded The RLJ Companies, a holding company with a diverse portfolio including hotel real estate investment; private equity; financial services; asset management; automobile dealerships; sports and entertainment; and Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) gaming.[3][15] The RLJ Companies is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland; with affiliate offices operating in Charlotte, North Carolina; Little Rock, Arkansas; Los Angeles, California; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Monrovia, Liberia.[16]

Other ventures

As of 2013, Johnson was a member of the board of directors for RLJ Lodging Trust, RLJ Entertainment, Inc., KB Home, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Strayer Education, Think Finance, Inc., NBA Board of Governors, The Business Council, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.[15][17][18][19][20][21][22][23] Johnson has also served as a member of the board of directors for several other companies and organizations, including US Airways, Hilton Hotels, General Mills, the United Negro College Fund, and Deutsche Bank’s Americas Advisory Board.[15][24][25][26][27][28]

Johnson became the first African-American majority club owner of a major American sports league with his 2002 purchase of the Charlotte Bobcats.[8][29][30] In 2010, Johnson sold his majority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats to Michael Jordan.[31]

Philanthropy and activism

In 2011, Johnson worked with Morgan Freeman to raise funds for hurricane preparedness in the Bahamas.[32] Johnson released a neckwear line in coordination with PVH and The Ella Rose Collection, the RLJ Ella Rose Africa Tie Collection, in 2012 to benefit the charitable organization Malaria No More.[33]

In 2007, Johnson created the Liberia Enterprise Development Fund with a $30 million investment.[5][34][35] The fund provides credit for Liberian entrepreneurs.[5]

In January 2008, Johnson became the target of criticism for remarks he made to supporters of Hillary Clinton about Barack Obama.[36][37]

Johnson said, "As an African-American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, [but] he said it in his book."[36] This statement was widely interpreted as a criticism of Obama's acknowledged use of marijuana in his youth. The Clinton campaign denied this, submitting that the comments were referring to Obama's work as a community organizer.[38] In subsequent days, Johnson was roundly criticized for his comments as hypocritical given the prodigious glorification of drug use and sale by artists prominently featured on BET.[39]

On January 17, 2008, Johnson sent Obama the following apology:[40]

I'm writing to apologize to you and your family personally for the un-called-for comments I made at a recent Clinton event. In my zeal to support Senator Clinton, I made some very inappropriate remarks for which I am truly sorry. I hope that you will accept this apology. Good luck on the campaign trail.

On April 14, 2008, Johnson made comments to the effect that Obama would not be the Democratic Party's leading candidate if he were not black, in support of the prior statement made by Geraldine Ferraro. He also went on to say "I make a joke about Obama doing drugs (and it's) 'Oh my God, a black man tearing down another black man.' "[41]

Personal life

Johnson married Sheila Johnson in 1969.[3] They divorced in 2001 and have two children.[42] Johnson began dating Lauren Wooden in 2010. As of 2016, Wooden is pursuing an international business-management doctorate in Paris.[43] They married in May 2016.[44] Greg Mathis officiated.[44]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Miller, Matthew (May 6, 2009). "The Wealthiest Black Americans". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2013. [...] Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire in 2000 after he sold the network to Viacom for $3 billion in stock and assumed swag. Since then, sagging Viacom and CBS stock, plus investments in real estate, hotels and banks [...] have dragged Johnson's net worth to $550 million, we estimate.
  2. 1 2 Bryant, Adam (November 12, 2011). "No Ranting and Raving Is Permitted". The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Eng, Dinah (November 9, 2012). "Bob Johnson moves way beyond BET". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Perl, Peter (December 14, 1997). "His Way". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 Johnson, Robert (May 13, 2007). "Liberia's Moment of Opportunity". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  6. "Business' Most Notoroius". USA Today. June 30, 2007. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  7. Benjamin, Scott (February 11, 2009). "Second Act for Robert Johnson". CBS News. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  8. 1 2 Rhoden, William C. (June 21, 2004). "Sports of The Times; First Item for the Bobcats: Win Over the Community". The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  9. Olson, Elizabeth (July 15, 2006). "He's Keeping Fingers in May Pots". The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  10. "The Million Dollar BET: Robert Johnson and the inside story of the Black Entertainment Television by Brett Pulley
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Dumaine, Brian (October 1, 2002). "The Market Nobody Wanted". CNN Money. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  12. 1 2 Stodghill, Ron (February 18, 2007). "A Media Mogul Tries Remote Control". The New York TImes. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Nycz-Conner, Jennifer (May 29, 2012). "30 Years: Black Entertainment Television goes public (October 30, 1991)". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  14. 1 2 "COMPANY NEWS; BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION TO BE SOLD". New York TImes. March 17, 1998. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  15. 1 2 3 "African-American Empowerment". Leaders Magazine. January 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  16. "RLJ Companies About". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  17. "RLJ Lodging Trust Form 10-K Annual Report Filed 2013-02-28". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  18. "RLJ ENTERTAINMENT, INC. Form 10-K Annual Report Filed 2013-04-10". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  19. "KB HOME Form10-K Annual Report Filed 2013-01-18". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  20. "LOWES COMPANIES INC Form 10-K Annual Report Filed 2013-04-02". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  21. "STRAYER EDUCATION INC - 10-K -20030331 - EXHIBITS". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  22. "Company Overview of Think Finance Inc.". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  23. Clemetson, Lynette (January 31, 2006). "Smithsonian Picks Notable Spot for Its Museum of Black History". New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  24. Gilpin, Kenneth L. (August 15, 2001). "US Air, Denied United Merger, to Sketch New Strategy". New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  25. Miller, Robert G. "Robert L. Johnson: A Business Titan Redefining Black Entrepreneurial Success". The Black Collegian. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  26. "General Mills, Inc. Form 8-K (2-11-04)". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  27. "Hilton Hotels, Corp. Form 10-K, Filed March 30, 1999". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  28. Coulton, Antoinette (May 24, 2000). "BET's Bob Johnson soars". CNN Money. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  29. "PRO BASKETBALL; BET's Founder Wins Franchise". New York Times. December 18, 2002. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  30. " NBA - BET founder Johnson awarded Charlotte franchise". December 18, 2002. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  31. Associated Press (December 18, 2002). "Sale of Charlotte Bobcats to Michael Jordan approved by NBA Board of Governors - ESPN". Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  32. Desmond-Harris, Jenee (June 21, 2011). "Morgan Freeman and Bob Johnson: Fundraising Team". The Root. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  33. Rowley, Dorothy (November 9, 2012). "Bob Johnson Launches Neck Tie Collection to Help Fight Malaria". The Washington Informer. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  34. Holder, Christina (July 14, 2009). "Americans lend a hand to new Liberia". USA Today. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  35. Adler, Niel (February 12, 2007). "RLJ Cos., partners create $30 million Liberia fund". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  36. 1 2 Smith, Ben (2008-01-13). "Bob Johnson on Obama's past - Ben Smith". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  37. Drugs, Race Raised in Clinton-Obama Fight", CNN, 13 January 2008.
  38. "Drugs, Race Raised in Clinton-Obama Fight", CNN, 13 January 2008.
  39. The Hypocrisy of BET's Bob Johnson's Obama Smears
  40. RLJ Development, LLC January 17, 2008
  41. Johnson cites race in Obama's surge
  42. "Sheila Johnson, Marrying Very Well". 2005. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  43. Heil, Emily; Roberts, Roxanne (2016-01-05). "BET founder Bob Johnson engaged to Lauren Wooden". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  44. 1 2 Heil, Emily (10 May 2016). "BET founder Bob Johnson weds Lauren Wooden at Napa Valley ceremony". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 May 2016.

External links

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