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 Charlotte NBA franchise on January 10, 2003. Johnson also immediately assumed ownership of the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting.
Johnson’s impact in Charlotte began immediately as he donated $1 million toward building the West Boulevard YMCA. Sports Illustrated magazine honored him as the most influential minority in sports in 2003 and recently he was named the 2003 Newsmaker of the Year by The Charlotte Post and Sporting News tabbed him the second-most powerful owner in sports for 2003.
Starting the expansion Charlotte Bobcats from the beginning is not new for Johnson, as he founded Black Entertainment Television in 1980 as a cable television network geared to serve the information and entertainment needs of African-Americans. The company has grown to become the leading African-American-operated media and entertainment company in the United States, reaching 75 million homes.
In 2000, Johnson sold BET to Viacom, Inc for approximately $3 billion. Following the sale of BET, Johnson formed the RLJ Companies where he owns or holds interest in companies operating in the hospitality/restaurant, real estate, fast food, gaming and entertainment/media industries.
From 1976 to 1979, Johnson served as vice president of Government Relations for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), a trade association representing more than 1,500 cable television companies. Prior to joining the NCTA, Johnson was press secretary for the Honorable Walter E. Fauntroy, Congressional Delegate from the District of Columbia. Johnson previously held positions at the Washington Urban League and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Johnson is very active in the business community, serving on the board of directors for US Airways, Hilton Hotels Corporation, General Mills, United Negro College Fund, National Cable Television Association and the American Film Institute. Johnson is also a member of the Board of Governors for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and a Board of Trustee for the Brookings Institution.
Winner of the 1997 Hall of Fame Award by Broadcasting & Cable Magazine, Johnson has been honored with Cablevision Magazine’s 20/20 Vision Award which lists him as one of the twenty most influential people in the cable industry, an NAACP Image Award, President’s Award from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, CTAM's Grand Tam Award, National Women’s Political Caucus’ Good Guys Award, a Distinguished Alumni Award from Princeton University.
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, D.C. and Charlotte, and is the father of a daughter, Paige, and a son, Brett.