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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 an American 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.

Johnson is team president, managing partner, and governor of the WNBA's Washington Mystics, a position she earned before the 2005 season. She is the first African-American woman to be an owner or partner in three professional sports franchises: the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA), and the Washington Mystics (WNBA).

As CEO of Salamander Hospitality, a company she founded in 2005, Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties. Woodlands Inn, in Summerville, SC, is one of only a handful of properties in North America to receive the prestigious Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond ratings for both lodging and dining. In 2007, Johnson acquired Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort. Set on 900 acres, this 72-hole resort in Innisbrook, FL hosts the annual PGA TOURs Transitions Championship and the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship.

In 2006, Johnson was named 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. Sheilas I Am Powerful Challenge was instrumental in helping raise funds for CAREs important work. Johnson is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry as a founding partner of BET (Black Entertainment Television) and as a film producer. In partnership with other investors, her first film, Kicking It, premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT. She was executive produced her second film, A Powerful Noise, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival in New York and her third film, She Is The Matador. Her latest film, The Other City, about the HIV/AIDS crisis in Washington DC, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2010. She was an executive producer of Lee Daniels' The Butler in 2013.

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 and served as chair of the board of governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York. She has sat on the boards of Americans for the Arts, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Tiger Woods Foundation, the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, Howard University and the University of Illinois Foundation.

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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