Robert L. Johnson is the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. Founded in 1980, BET is the nation¿s first and leading television network providing quality entertainment, music, news, sports and public affairs programming for the African-American audience.
Johnson made history once again in 2002 by becoming the first African-American majority owner of a major sports franchise¿the expansion Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA. Johnson is also the owner of the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA.
Under Johnson¿s leadership, BET became the first African-American¿owned company publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange and has enjoyed extraordinary financial and strategic success since its creation. The BET Network reaches more than 80 million households according to Nielsen Media Research and can be seen in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. BET is a dominant consumer brand in the urban marketplace with a diverse group of branded businesses: BET.com, the number one Internet portal for African-Americans; BET Digital Networks¿BET Jazz, BET Gospel and BET Hip-Hop, attractive alternatives for cutting-edge entertainment tastes; and BET Event Productions, specializing in a full range of event production services.
In 2000, Johnson sold BET to Viacom for approximately $3 billion and signed a multiyear contract to continue to serve as chief executive officer. This all-stock transaction made Johnson the second largest individual shareholder in Viacom after its chairman, Sumner Redstone.
Following the sale of BET, Johnson formed the RLJ Companies. Under the RLJ Companies umbrella, Johnson owns or holds interests in companies operating in the professional sports, hospitality/restaurant, real estate, financial services, gaming and recording industries, plus sole ownership of one of the nation¿s largest and oldest collections of African-American art¿the Barnett-Aden Collection. From 1976 to 1979, Johnson served as vice president of government relations for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). Prior to joining the NCTA, Johnson was press secretary to the Honorable Walter E. Fauntroy, Congressional Delegate from the District of Columbia.
Johnson was recently ranked number one on Sports Illustrated magazine¿s listing of the ¿100 Most Influential Minorities in Sports.¿ Other major awards and recognitions received by Johnson include: 2004 inductee to the Cable Television Hall of Fame; Cablevision magazine¿s 20/20 Vision Award, which lists him as one of the 20 Most Influential People in the cable industry; 1997 Broadcasting & Cable magazine¿s Hall of Fame Award; an NAACP Image Award; and the National Women's Political Caucus¿ ¿Good Guys¿ Award.
Johnson serves on the following boards of directors: Lowe¿s Companies, Inc., IMG and Strayer Education, Inc., NBA Board of Governors, Johns Hopkins University and the American Film Institute. 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.