Sheila Johnson, America’s first Black female billionaire, is a force to be reckoned with. As co-founder of BET, she has secured a place among the nation’s leading businesswomen and one of the world’s wealthiest Black women.
With a net worth of $840 million according to Forbes, Johnson trails only Oprah Winfrey and cosmetics billionaire Rihanna among the wealthiest Black businesswomen in America. Her entrepreneurial spirit has led her to explore various industries, including investments in real estate, sports, and the hospitality industry.
Johnson’s journey to success began with the co-founding of BET with her ex-husband, Robert L. Johnson, America’s first Black billionaire. Together, they built the network into a powerhouse, eventually selling it to Viacom for $3 billion in 2001, marking a significant milestone in their entrepreneurial journey.
In recent years, Johnson has broadened her investment. In 2002, she acquired a 340-acre horse farm in Virginia, demonstrating her passion for equestrianism. Her sports ownership ventures include stakes in the Washington Mystics, Washington Wizards, and Washington Capitals, showing her commitment to promoting diversity in the sports industry.
Perhaps her most notable venture outside of BET is Salamander Hotels and Resorts, a hospitality company she founded in 2005. With over 3,000 employees and seven properties across the United States and Caribbean, Salamander has become a force in the luxury hotel industry.
Renowned destinations like Charleston, Aspen, Tampa Bay, Jamaica, and Anguilla are all part of the Salamander portfolio, reflecting Johnson’s commitment to creating exceptional guest experiences. The company’s recent ranking of twelfth on the “Travel + Leisure” list further demonstrates its dedication to excellence.
Billionaires.Africa reveals Johnson’s diverse business portfolio, featuring five ventures, including BET, which she and her ex-husband sold in 2001. This showcases her profound influence across various sectors.
- Salamander Collection
Salamander Collection, led by Johnson, is a trailblazing hospitality management company committed to redefining luxury without compromising comfort. Capitalizing on a gap in the industry, Johnson’s leadership has propelled Salamander’s strategic expansion. In 2022 alone, three new properties were seamlessly integrated into the portfolio, bringing the total to seven across diverse locations, including Washington, D.C., South Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Jamaica, and Anguilla.
- Salamander Middleburg
As the CEO of Salamander Middleburg, Johnson has shaped this Five-Star resort and spa into a crown jewel nestled in Middleburg, Virginia. Spanning 340 acres against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lush vineyards, and horse farms, Johnson has transformed Salamander Middleburg into an epitome of luxury and relaxation.
- Black Entertainment Television (BET)
Co-founding Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 1980, Johnson played a pivotal role in transforming it into a 24-hour cable television station and entertainment giant catering to African Americans. Under her leadership, BET became one of the largest minority-owned businesses in the U.S., amassing 45 million subscribers globally by the late 1990s. In a historic move, Viacom acquired BET for nearly $3 billion in November 2000.
- Monumental Sports and Entertainment
As the Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Johnson has left an indelible mark in the sports industry. Through investments in teams like the Washington Mystics, Wizards, and Capitals, she has not only diversified her income but also championed sports at both professional and community levels. As the sole Black co-owner of three major professional sports teams, Johnson stands as an inspiration for women in the male-dominated sports arena.
- Sheila C Johnson Foundation
Beyond her business empire, Johnson is renowned for her philanthropic endeavors. Through the Sheila C Johnson Foundation, she has made substantial contributions to arts and education. Her support for arts education and initiatives empowering young artists reflects a belief in the transformative power of the arts. Additionally, Johnson is a passionate advocate for women’s empowerment and gender equality, supporting initiatives across business, sports, and the arts. Her dedication to philanthropy exemplifies a genuine commitment to positive change and community well-being.