Robert L. Johnson made history as the first African-American to become the majority owner of a professional sports organization when the NBA Board of Governors granted him the expansion NBA Charlotte Bobcats and WNBA Charlotte Sting franchises on January 10, 2003.
In his first months of ownership, Johnson moved swiftly to assemble the NBA’s 30th franchise, donated one million dollars to the YMCA highlighting a community-minded organizational approach, created a new basketball identity for Charlotte and broke ground on a new Uptown arena.
In his first years as an NBA owner, Johnson has successfully followed through on his pledge to the City of Charlotte to combine great citizens off the court with great players on the court.
Johnson also created the Charlotte Jumper Classic, an elite Grand Prix horse show jumping competition held annually in the Queen City, which benefits the Bobcats Charitable Foundation.
In 2003, Johnson was named by Sports Illustrated as the most influential minority in sports, while The Sporting News tabbed him the second-most powerful owner in sports.
Starting a large business from the beginning is not new for Johnson. He founded and served as CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET) from 1980-2005. In 2001, Johnson sold BET to Viacom, Inc for approximately $3 billion, and formed the RLJ Companies, where he owns or holds interest in companies operating in the hospitality/restaurant, real estate, finance, gaming and entertainment/media industries.
The RLJ Companies is comprised of core assets that include:
• RLJ Development, a privately held hotel investment company that acquires and develops upscale select service hotels, including Hilton-branded and Marriott-branded hotels in major North American urban markets.
• RLJ Urban Lodging Funds I and II, private equity hotel investment companies that have acquired 122 hotels with a total value of more than $3 billion.
• RLJ Asset Management Group, which includes RLJ Select Investments, LLC, a hedge fund of funds business with Deutsche Asset Management (DeAM), and RLJ Equity Partners, LLC, a private equity fund formed in association with the Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm with $35 billion under management.
• Urban Trust Bank, a federal thrift institution for urban-based consumers with branches in Orlando and Washington, DC.
• RolloverSystems, a financial services company in Charlotte that is the leading provider of outsourced retirement plans.
• Our Stories Films, LLC, is a film production studio formed in partnership with The Weinstein Company.
• Casino and Gaming Entertainment (C.A.G.E.) is a video lottery gaming company headquartered in Puerto Rico and operating throughout the Caribbean.
Johnson serves on the following boards of directors: NBA Board of Governors, Lowe’s Companies, International Management Group (IMG), American Film Institute, Strayer Education, Inc., Johns Hopkins University, The Business Council, Wal Mart Advisory Council and Deutsche Bank Advisory Board.
Johnson is a graduate of the University of Illinois and holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Johnson maintains residences in Washington, DC and Charlotte.