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Sheila C. Johnson  

Entrepreneur, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, President of WNBA's Washington Mystics & Co-Founder of BET

Sheila Crump Johnson is a businesswoman, co-founder of BET, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, and the first African-American woman to attain a net worth of at least one billion dollars. She is the team president, managing partner, and governor of the WNBA's Washington Mystics. As CEO of Salamander Hospitality, a company she founded in 2005, Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties. Among her properties is the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, which houses a 72-hole golf course that hosts the annual PGA TOURs Transitions Championship and the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship.

As a leading humanitarian, Johnson is a global ambassador for CARE, an organization fighting global poverty. Her I Am Powerful Challenge was instrumental in raising funds for CARE's efforts. Johnson serves as chair of the board of governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York and funded the opening of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. Additionally, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity.

Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry. As a founding partner of BET (Black Entertainment Television), she has made significant contributions to media and entertainment. Her film production credentials include her first film, Kicking It, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and A Powerful Noise, for which she served as the sole executive producer. A fervent supporter of the arts and education, Johnson was appointed by Barack Obama to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities during his administration. She sits on the boards of VH1's Save the Music Foundation, Americans for the Arts, the School of Education and Human Development Foundation at the University of Virginia, and the University of Illinois Foundation.

In addition to her varied accomplishments, Johnson is the owner or partner of three professional sports franchises: the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards, and the Washington Mystics. She has received several awards, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Lincoln Medal, the Order of Lincoln, and the Billie Jean King Leadership Award. Her memoir, "Walk Through Fire," was published by Simon & Schuster in September 2023.

Speech Topics

Creative Pursuits

Johnson spent her grade school and college years training to be a concert violinist. She is now an advocate for the arts and arts education, as she believes that they allow children an important outlet for their creativity and help with all other academic pursuits. She serves as chair of the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York and sits on the boards of VH1's Save the Music Foundation and Americans for the Arts. Johnson speaks authoritatively on the rewards and benefits of investing in the arts.

The Rewards of Philanthropy

Leaders must be givers, sharing their time, resources and vision to help others who are less fortunate, and inspiring those around them to action. In addition to Johnson's contributions to the arts, she is a global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty by empowering women, because they have the unique power to help entire communities escape poverty. "Sheila's I Am Powerful Challenge" raised millions for CARE, and "A Powerful Noise," the documentary Johnson produced about three remarkable women effecting change in Mali, Vietnam and Bosnia, helped raise awareness of women's issues around the world. Through inspirational stories and moving anecdotes, Johnson illustrates:

  • How to find a mission close to your heart

  • How to pass on the spirit of giving within your community or organization

  • How to give effectively within your means

Lessons from a Groundbreaking Leader

The entrepreneurial bug bit Johnson early on. Never one to take the easy road, she has been on a path to success that has been filled with hard lessonsincluding the absolute importance of collaboration. In today's challenging business environment, entrepreneurs need encouragement more than ever before, and Johnson not only offers them inspiration, but also imparts the important lessons she's learned, including:

  • How to get in the door, and how to create a new door when necessary

  • Why its crucial to take calculated risks while owning your mistakes

  • Why there's no such thing as a straight line when it comes to business success

  • How to create the right corporate culture and foster employee investment


Secrets of Wealthy Women: Sheila Johnson on Learning to Trust ...
In the latest “Secrets of Wealthy Women” podcast, Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson talks about trust and overcoming adversity.
Sheila Johnson: Winning the War - WSJ
Sheila Johnson helped create a $3 billion company, but she still had difficulty getting a loan to build a hotel. In 2002, she bought a 340-acre property in ...
A Day in the Life of Sheila Johnson -
The cofounder of BET has parlayed her fortune into a consortium built on personal passions, including a stake in the NBA Wizards, luxury resorts owned by ...
Sheila C. Johnson Approves of Working From Home - The Cut
At the Women's Media Awards last night, Sheila C. Johnson, co-founder of BET, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, president of the WNBA's Washington ...

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