Founder and Chairman
Robert L. Johnson is the Founder and Chairman of The RLJ Companies, LLC, an innovative business network, and owns or holds interests in businesses operating in hotel real estate, private equity, 401k fintech services, automobile dealerships, content streaming, gaming and sports betting.
Prior to forming The RLJ Companies, Mr. Johnson was founder and chairman of Black Entertainment Television (BET), the nation's first Black-owned cable television network.
Johnson continues to attract and manage capital and create value for investors, and in 2012, announced the successful creation of RLJ Entertainment, Inc., a premium digital channel company serving distinct audiences primarily through its popular streaming services, Acorn TV (British TV) and UMC (Urban Movie Channel). RLJ Entertainment, Inc. marks the third time Johnson has successfully taken a company public. In 1991 Johnson took BET public, making the network the first African American company to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. RLJ Lodging Trust, a hotel real estate investment trust (REIT), went public in 2011.
In 2001, Johnson sold BET to Viacom for approximately $3 billion. In July 2007, Johnson was named, by USA Today, one of "The 25 Most Influential Business Leaders of the Past 25 Years."
Two of Johnson's holding companies are ranked among the top Black-owned companies in the country on the Black Enterprise 100s list: RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive Holdings, LLC and RLJ Equity Partners, LLC.
Currently, Mr. Johnson serves on the following boards: RLJ Lodging Trust; KB Home; Elevate Credit, Inc.; G-III Apparel Group, Ltd.; The Business Council; and Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Mr. Johnson holds a Master's degree in international affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies from the University of Illinois.