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CHOCO
Dec 18th, 2002, 06:08 AM
NBA picks its first black owner :bounce:

BET’s Johnson chosen to run Charlotte expansion team

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 17 — Robert Johnson, the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television, has been chosen as owner of the NBA’s new Charlotte expansion franchise, The Associated Press learned Tuesday night.

THE 56-YEAR-OLD JOHNSON will become the league’s first black majority owner, according to two sources familiar with the decision.

The league scheduled a news conference Wednesday in New York. Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment.
Johnson and the other group seeking the team, headed by Boston businessman Steve Belkin and former Celtics great Larry Bird, made presentations to the league’s expansion committee Monday.
“I’m heartbroken,” Bird said. “It’s hard to realize that the dream I’ve had for so many years is not be, and that an awesome opportunity, which would have been the greatest and most exciting challenge in my life, will not come to pass.
“It’s difficult for me to properly express how deeply disappointed I am that we did not get the opportunity to build a championship team in Charlotte.”
Belkin said: “I’m deeply disappointed and saddened by the NBA’s decision. I felt that we assembled a world-class investor group and management team that was exceptionally qualified to make Charlotte a huge success.”
Forbes magazine estimated Johnson’s wealth at $1.3 billion earlier this year, making him No. 149 on the magazine’s list of richest Americans.
The franchise is to begin play in the 2004-05 season and replaces the Hornets, who moved to New Orleans earlier this year. After one year at the Charlotte Coliseum, the team will move into a new $260 million downtown arena.

The franchise fee is expected to be $300 million.

The NBA’s full Board of Governors, with a representative from each of the 29 teams, is expected to vote on Johnson in early January.

The Hornets left Charlotte after years of declining attendance and failed attempts to get a new arena built. The league approved the move, but Charlotte leaders successfully argued that the city, which led the NBA in attendance for eight seasons in the late 1980s and early 1990s, should get a new team.
Belkin soon emerged as one contender for the team. Johnson, who had tried twice without success to buy the Hornets from owner George Shinn, also said he would like the franchise.
Johnson, who is based in Washington, D.C., insisted all along that his chances would not be hurt by not having a marquee name like Bird in his camp.
“What’s going to give the edge in marketing is your players and what your team does on the court, no matter who is the head of basketball operations - even if you have Michael Jordan as the head of basketball operations,” he said last week.
Jordan and Johnson are friends, raising the possibility that Johnson might be tempted to lure Jordan to the new team if Jordan chooses not to buy back his ownership stake in the Washington Wizards. Jordan has said he won’t play after this season, his second with the Wizards.
“I think Bob’s going to do well. He has the first thing that you need in owning a basketball team, ... which is loving the game. And he’s willing to fork over the money to make sure he builds a team solid,” Jordan said. “He has a great fan base. It’s been proven that you can survive in Charlotte when you’re winning. He’s going to do a great job.”
NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Johnson did not mention Jordan in his presentation to the expansion committee.
Johnson would be the first black person to hold controlling interest in an NBA team. Bertram Lee and Peter Bynoe both held minority interests in the Denver Nuggets starting in 1989.
Belkin argued that his group of investors would be able to move quickly to get a team ready to play in 2004 and that Bird’s fame and popularity would help sell the team to Charlotteans, who were soured on the NBA by the Hornets’ departure.
The Charlotte team will fill its roster through a dispersal draft in which every other NBA team could protect eight players.
Granik has said the new team will not be saddled with the same type of draft restrictions as those imposed on Toronto and Vancouver when the league last expanded in 1995. The Raptors and Grizzlies were ineligible to select first in the draft until they had completed four seasons.
One of the owners on the expansion committee is Shinn. Also on the committee are Jerry Colangelo of Phoenix, Larry Tanenbaum of Toronto, Joe Maloof of Sacramento, Lewis Katz of New Jersey, Stan Kroenke of Denver, Peter Holt of San Antonio and Bob Vander Weide of Orlando.
Johnson said last week that if he won the team he would sell up to 49 percent of the team to Charlotte investors.

King Satan
Dec 18th, 2002, 06:12 AM
Alright! this is good, I think things are gonna change from now on. Their's also a Mexican kat who wants to buy the Angels :bounce:

Hope things keep going in this direction :bounce:

CHOCO
Dec 18th, 2002, 02:08 PM
Perhaps this will open up doors for ownership in other sports as well. :)

CHOCO
Dec 18th, 2002, 06:26 PM
Charlotte's black community reacts to NBA ownership decision
12/18/02 11:02 AM
By: Debora Wong, News 14 Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Not even six months after the Charlotte Hornets packed their bags for New Orleans, the Queen City got an NBA expansion team and its owner has already created a bigger buzz than the team itself.

He is the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television — and now he can add another accomplishment to his resume: Robert Johnson is now the owner of an NBA franchise. He is the first-ever black majority owner of a major sports team.

"He's showing us we can not only play on the team, but own the team, run it, and run it right,” said B.J. Murphy on WPEG FM’s Breakfast Brothers Morning Show.

Wednesday morning, the consensus among callers to the radio show was positive. But host B.J. Murphy said that many believed Johnson would be passed over in favor of Boston businessman Steve Belkin, so the decision was a bit unexpected.

"This was a shock. This was a shock to the black community as well as the white community,” said Murphy.

Many Charlotteans said the invisible hurdle that Johnson has cleared personally inspired them.

"I have a lot of dreams and I think I can accomplish them. I may not be the owner of a team, if I strive hard enough, I think I can go as far as I want to,” said Charlotte resident David Grey.

"It shows me there are chances for other people to move up,” said Lisa Hollis, a local resident. “That we can all do it if we work hard enough and try."

Others questioned whether or not Johnson will invest his considerable resources in the hometown of his new team — and in particular, contribute to the advancement of Charlotte's black community.

"Hopefully, he can initiate programs like tech training, or entrepreneurial systems in these communities that are in dire straits,” said resident Russell Swilley.

"I believe he'll help the African American community and the rest of the community,” said Murphy. “It's not just about helping out one segment of the population."

But ultimately, most said they believe Johnson and his new-found status with the Charlotte-based NBA franchise can only be good news for the city's black community.

CHOCO
Dec 18th, 2002, 06:37 PM
http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/images/I6348-2002Dec18
Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Washington-based Black Entertainment Television, has been awarded an NBA expansion franchise in Charlotte, making him the first black majority owner in professional sports.



NBA Awards Johnson Expansion Franchise

By Chris Sheridan
Associated Press
Wednesday, December 18, 2002; 12:58 PM


NEW YORK –– Not too many people have beaten Larry Bird one-on-one. Robert Johnson, the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television, did just that, besting Bird in the competition to own the NBA's new Charlotte franchise.

The NBA officially announced Wednesday that Johnson will be the man who will put a team back in North Carolina, making him the first black majority owner in major pro sports.

"We are confident that Mr. Johnson's background, resources and track record of success in the entertainment industry will make him an outstanding NBA owner," NBA Board of Governors chairman and Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said Wednesday.

Bird was devastated by the league's decision, which followed presentations from both groups to an expansion committee Monday.

"I'm heartbroken," the Hall of Famer said in a statement released by his agent Tuesday night. "It's hard to realize that the dream I've had for so many years is not to be, and that an awesome opportunity, which would have been the greatest and most exciting challenge in my life, will not come to pass."

Bird has been a success at every level of his basketball career, leading Indiana State to an NCAA title game and the Boston Celtics to three NBA titles as a player. As a coach, he led the Indiana Pacers to the 2000 NBA Finals.

But with the expansion committee's decision – reported Tuesday night by The Associated Press – Johnson denied Bird the chance to construct a title contender from the ground up.

"It's difficult for me to properly express how deeply disappointed I am that we did not get the opportunity to build a championship team in Charlotte," Bird said.

Johnson said he would not consider bringing Bird aboard.

Boston businessman Steve Belkin fronted the Bird group.

The team is to begin play in the 2004-05 season and replaces the Hornets, who moved to New Orleans this year. After one season at the Charlotte Coliseum, the team will move into a new $260 million downtown arena.

The franchise fee is expected to be $300 million.

Forbes magazine estimated Johnson's wealth at $1.3 billion this year, making him 149th on the magazine's list of richest Americans.

Though Johnson reportedly played down the issue of race in his expansion committee presentation, Chicago-based sports finance consultant Marc Ganis said there is no doubt it helped Johnson's case.

"As long as the person met the qualifications and paid full price for the franchise, it's very important to bring controlling minority interests into professional sports, particularly the NBA," Ganis said.

Johnson became a billionaire when media conglomerate Viacom bought BET for about $2.3 billion in stock in 2000. Ganis said the source of his wealth made the league's decision easier.

"He has real dead presidents. He had something he created of value, that was easily identifiable and tangible," Ganis said.

The NBA's full Board of Governors, with a representative from each of the 29 teams, is expected to vote on Johnson in early January.

The Hornets left Charlotte after years of declining attendance and failed attempts to get a new arena built. The league approved the move, but Charlotte leaders successfully argued that the city, which led the NBA in attendance for eight seasons in the late 1980s and early 1990s, should get a new team.

Belkin soon emerged as a contender. Johnson, who had tried twice without success to buy the Hornets from owner George Shinn, also said he would like the franchise.

Johnson, who is based in Washington, D.C., insisted all along that his chances would not be hurt by not having a marquee name like Bird in his camp.

"What's going to give the edge in marketing is your players and what your team does on the court, no matter who is the head of basketball operations – even if you have Michael Jordan as the head of basketball operations," he said last week.

Jordan and Johnson are friends, raising the possibility that Johnson might be tempted to lure Jordan to the new team if Jordan chooses not to buy back his ownership stake in the Washington Wizards. Jordan has said he won't play after this season.

"I think Bob's going to do well," Jordan said Tuesday. "He has the first thing that you need in owning a basketball team ... which is loving the game. And he's willing to fork over the money to make sure he builds a team solid. He has a great fan base. It's been proven that you can survive in Charlotte when you're winning. He's going to do a great job."

NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Johnson did not mention Jordan in his presentation to the expansion committee.

Johnson would be the first black person to hold controlling interest in a team in one of the four major pro sports leagues – the NBA, NFL, NHL and major league baseball. In the NBA, Bertram Lee and Peter Bynoe both held minority interests in the Denver Nuggets.

CHOCO
Dec 18th, 2002, 09:40 PM
:)

CHOCO
Dec 18th, 2002, 11:46 PM
CONGRATS ROBERT JOHNSON!!! :)

CHOCO
Dec 19th, 2002, 12:38 AM
Hopefully, there will be more opportunities for other black and minorities owners of sport franchises.

CHOCO
Dec 19th, 2002, 02:13 AM
http://www.news14charlotte.com/media/2002/12/18/images/01_____18-bet.jpg
In 1980 AJohnson started Black Entertainment Television by broadcasting music videos as only a two-hour network.

http://www.news14charlotte.com/media/2002/12/18/images/02_____18-r_johnson.jpg
Johnson was set to invest in DC AIR a US Airways company that would have taken off if the merger with United Airlines had gone through.


Who is Robert Johnson?
12/18/02 5:48 PM
By: News 14 Carolina

Billionaire Robert Johnson was named Wednesday as the owner of a team to bring NBA action back to Charlotte. Johnson made his billions from hunble beginnings.

Johnson was the first child in his family to go to college graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in political science before going on to Princeton to obtain his Masters in public administration.

From 1976 to 1979, Johnson served as vice president of Government Relations for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a trade association representing more than 1,500 cable television companies.


In 1980 AJohnson started Black Entertainment Television by broadcasting music videos as only a two-hour network.
It was during that time that he started formulating the idea of marketing television for the African American Community.

Eleven years later the 24-hour network became the first African American owned company to go public on the New York Stock Exchange.

BET now reaches more than 61.4 million U.S. homes and more than 90 percent of all Black cable households.

Johnson took the company private in 1998 and bought back all of his publicly traded stock.

Viacom bought the company from Johnson a year later for 2.3-billion dollars in stock options, making Robert Johnson the country's first black billionaire. Johnson remains the CEO of BET.

He first established connections to Charlotte when he was set to invest in DC AIR a US Airways company that would have taken off if the merger with United Airlines had gone through.

Johnson has a strong sense of self and says his blueprint for success lies in enormous self-confidence and maintaining a vision of what you can achieve.

It has long been a goal of Johnson's to own a professional basketball team. As recently as last year, he was in talks with the NBA Players Association about a possible joint purchase of the CBA basketball league. He also tried twice to buy the Hornets from team majority owner, George Shinn.

Robert Johnson will remain in D.C. with his wife and their two children, but says he plans to spend plenty of time in Charlotte.

CHOCO
Dec 19th, 2002, 06:20 AM
:)

CHOCO
Dec 19th, 2002, 06:30 AM
http://*********************/sports/nba/_photos3/2002-12-18-inside-johnson.jpg
BET founder Robert Johnson (center) poses with NBA Commissioner David Stern (left), and Johnson's son Brett, 13, in New York.



Winning NBA bid just the start for Johnson
By Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY

Just because Robert Johnson bought his way into the NBA on Wednesday, winning the right to pay a startling $300 million for an expansion team in Charlotte, that doesn't mean he's done shopping. He still wants to buy baseball's Montreal Expos and move them to Washington, D.C. "We're going to win that," he says. "If you get into a beauty contest, I win."


For Johnson, who has been eyeing the Expos for months and first tried to buy into the NBA years ago, such bravado now seems more believable. Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin says baseball hasn't begun "investigating" potential owners for the MLB-owned Expos. However, he seems impressed. "I think (Johnson) is a serious candidate in whatever he decides to do." (Related story: Charlotte to draft 4th in 2003)

Johnson already has beaten out an NBA legend. Larry Bird, another suitor of the Charlotte team, said in a statement he's "heartbroken" about losing "the greatest and most exciting opportunity in my life." But it was no shock Wednesday when Larry Legend and his team of 13 other investors officially lost their bid — they were up against a billionaire.

And not just any billionaire. Johnson is America's first African-American billionaire — and is set to become the first black majority owner of a major league sports team. Says TNT analyst and ex-NBA star Charles Barkley: "It's about time we had a black owner in sports. I'm glad the brother got the team."

Johnson made his fortune in cable television aimed at black viewers. And NBA Commissioner David Stern openly admits color was a factor in awarding the NBA's 30th team — but mostly the color green. "Bob happens to be black," Stern says. "But he also happens to be one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America. ... And he also has a substantial individual net worth that allows him to make an investment like this."

THE JOHNSON FILE

Robert L. Johnson, who started Black Entertainment Television in 1980 with $15,000 of his own money and $500,000 from cable giant TCI, became a billionaire after Viacom bought BET for about $3 billion in stock in 2000. The self-made billionaire was just awarded an NBA expansion team in Charlotte for $300 million.

Age: 56
Marital status: Divorced, two children
Born: Hickory, Miss.
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Undergraduate: Illinois, bachelor of arts and science
Graduate: Princeton, master of arts
Net worth: $1.3 billion
USA rank: 149th by Forbes
Business: Founder, chairman and CEO of BET Holdings II Inc.
Other investments: US Airways, Vanguard Media, lottery business on about six Caribbean islands
Board member: US Airways, Hilton Hotels Corporation, General Mills, United Negro College Fund, National Cable Television Association, American Film Institute and the Advertising Councils




Says Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, chair of the NBA's Board of Governors, which awarded Johnson the team that will begin play in 2004-05: "Anybody who thinks he got the franchise based on the color of his skin is wrong."

But U.S. Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), a likely candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, says Johnson's skin color wasn't irrelevant. Edwards recently called Colangelo to lobby for Johnson. "I said it would send a real positive signal to African-American youth if they could see not just African-Americans on the court but in the owners' box," Edwards says. "He said, 'We understand that. It's important to us, too.' "

Johnson agrees race was a factor.

"The issue of diversity was important," he says. "But in no way was it the determining factor in the selection of this candidate."

But Colangelo also suggests Johnson's admission into the NBA's club of otherwise white male owners constitutes more proof that the NBA is "on the cutting edge" of including African-Americans.

Earl Lloyd became the league's first black player three years after Jackie Robinson's major league debut in 1947. But the NBA went on to other firsts. It had the first black coach in a major sports league when Bill Russell got the Boston Celtics job in 1966 and the first black general manager in a major sport when Wayne Embry got the Cleveland Cavaliers job in 1972. And in 1989, African-American investors Bertram Lee and Peter Bynoe briefly became the public faces of the Denver Nuggets' ownership.

"I'm elated," says Harry Edwards, a sociologist who has studied sports and is a consultant for the San Francisco 49ers. "I'm a big Larry Bird fan. He's done as much for the game as anyone in recent history. ... But it really goes to the nature of the challenge we're confronting in society. With limited resources, diversity can be a zero-sum game. There are only so many franchises to go around. But, it's a good move for the country — and a helluva move for the NBA."

Well maybe, says Clifford Alexander, the former Secretary of the Army who has worked with Major League Baseball as a consultant on minority issues: "It's good for Bob Johnson. I'm not sure about everyone else."

And the NBA knows fans don't pay to watch owners. Sports business consultant Marc Ganis suggests the only potential NBA owner who might sell game tickets in North Carolina is Michael Jordan, a native of the state. But in Johnson, Ganis told the Associated Press, the NBA got a real asset. "He has real dead presidents."

As Alexander, an African-American, puts it: "He is the one black person in this country who could afford $300 million to buy a team."

Humble beginnings

Johnson won't be the NBA's richest owner.

According to Forbes rankings of the richest Americans, that distinction goes to Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who owns the Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks — and is worth an estimated $21 billion.

Johnson, according to Forbes, is worth $1.3 billion, tying him with Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Bob McNair, owner of the NFL's Houston Texans. And while Johnson is Forbes' 149th-richest American (and No. 445 in the world), he ranks behind at least 18 other Americans with investments in pro sports teams.

But perhaps no other billionaire started with as little.

As the only of 10 children in his family who graduated from college, Johnson went to the University of Illinois and earned a master's degree from Princeton. He borrowed $15,000 in seed money in 1979 and grew it into a fortune.

His idea, in those nascent days of cable TV, was a channel targeting African-American viewers. Black Entertainment Television, as it was originally dubbed before its acronym became its official identification, rode the same cable TV wave that carried other media entrepreneurs, notably Ted Turner, toward pro sports franchise ownership.

Johnson said in 1996 he hoped to become "the brand of choice for black consumers that Disney is for white consumers." But he faced criticism of the inexpensive programming BET relied on, such as reruns, which Turner's cable channels also used extensively to hold down costs, and music videos, which Johnson focused on partly because he felt MTV was overlooking black acts.

Johnson suggested critics had double standards. When, for instance, reruns are "on the white networks," he once said, "they're called classics. When they're on BET, they're called 'tired ol' reruns.' "

BET has scored some notable news exclusives, from a jailhouse interview with ex-Washington mayor Marion Barry as he served time for cocaine possession in 1992 to O.J. Simpson's first interview after his acquittal on murder charges to Monday's sitdown with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

There's no question BET paid off for Johnson.

By 1999, Black Enterprise ranked BET sixth among the largest U.S. black-owned service and industrial companies. And when it was acquired last year by media giant Viacom, whose holdings include CBS and MTV, Johnson's 63% stake netted him $1.5 billion in Viacom stock.

Money talks

Johnson, who tried buying into the NBA's Washington franchise in 1994, has publicly considered other ventures outside TV. He proposed a Washington-based airline to be built with assets shed from a proposed United Airlines-USAirways merger — an idea that was scuttled after the U.S. government vetoed the merger.

Now he's ready to pony up the NBA's $300 million expansion fee. The last time the NBA expanded, in 1995, it charged $125 million for franchises in Vancouver and Toronto. It charged $32.5 million when it first came to Charlotte in 1988. Although the latest price tag was made possible by the city's willingness to build a $260 million arena, it's also a testament to the NBA's fiscal fitness.

Or maybe it's just another example of a very rich man using sports to buy fame and full-body massage for the ego. Johnson, asked about that in a telephone interview, suggests his ego already is healthy: "My favorite saying is, 'I'm not mad at my money.' I make investments to make money. And I don't need a sports team to get visibility and get my phone calls returned."

And Johnson sounds like he'd stay on good terms with his money if he went on to use more of it on sports. Noting leagues' rising player costs and the potential slowdown in TV revenues, Johnson says sports is at a critical point now.

"But sports is still an entertainment brand that's difficult to replace. For a long time, it's going to be an attractive investment."

But will Johnson's success go beyond dollars and cents?

David Bositis, senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, suggests not.

"Ten years ago it would have been perceived as a bigger deal than it is going to be now," Bositis says. "Basketball is a sport where most players are black and many coaches are black. It is not a sport where people will think, 'How are things now going to be different?' "

Alexander also questions the impact. "There is a hint in these discussions that black people can get hired by the black owner," he says. "But there should be full opportunity everywhere around the NBA. And in the rest of the country, where there are a hell of a lot more employment opportunities than in basketball front offices."

But Johnson offers this lesson from his success: "We should look at it in terms of what it means to us, as a society, when everyone is given a chance."

Even a billionaire.

CHOCO
Dec 19th, 2002, 11:40 AM
First black to own NBA team
Billionaire TV mogul is awarded Charlotte, N.C., franchise

Rachel Nichols, Washington Post Thursday, December 19, 2002

New York -- Robert Johnson made history yet again on Wednesday morning.

Already the first African American billionaire, Johnson became the first African American to own a major sports team when the NBA awarded him the rights to its expansion franchise in Charlotte.

The deal is still pending formal approval in a vote next month, but Johnson, 56, is expected to pay a record $300 million for the new, yet-to-be- named team, the first under majority black ownership in not just the NBA but also the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball. The $300 million is more than double the previous NBA expansion fee, but Johnson stressed that the cost will in no way squelch his desire to also bring a baseball team to Washington. He will also continue to live in Washington and commute to Charlotte, which lost its NBA team to New Orleans in June.

Some NBA owners had initially been more interested in awarding the Charlotte rights to a rival group that included former Boston Celtics star Larry Bird, but the Bird group's proposal fell about $50 million short of what the NBA was asking, sources said. The league was also particularly impressed with Johnson's business record founding Black Entertainment Television.

Johnson's being African American was not as much a determining factor, everyone involved stressed Wednesday, although, as Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo noted, it was "a plus" in a league where all other 29 teams have majority white ownership.

"What's really most meaningful to me is that 29 guys who are accomplished in their own right said, 'We want you in the club,' and they said that based on my personality, my track record in business," Johnson said. "I'm very proud of what African Americans have accomplished ever since we've been in this country, and we've been in this country under some obviously -- to say difficult conditions is an understatement. But through all that 200-plus-year history, we have always achieved by trying to be the best despite the odds."

He added that by breaking down the ownership barrier in the four major sports -- others have owned minority shares but never controlled teams -- he simply stands "on the shoulders of people like Jackie Robinson. I'm real proud to be an African American, be the first African American owner of an NBA franchise."

Johnson's selection comes as several other sports are grappling with their own diversity issues. Earlier this year, longtime college basketball coach Nolan Richardson said he believed his dismissal from the University of Arkansas had racial implications. The NFL has come under increased fire for a lack of African Americans at the head coach and general manager levels, as has baseball.

Golf is wrestling with Augusta National's right to keep an all-male membership, and the Bush administration has called for a review of Title IX, which requires equal access to athletics at the college level.

But while in light of those circumstances Johnson's selection may be a rosy step toward wider participation in sports, it also serves as a demonstration of the thorny issues that accompany such a move. In an introductory news conference Wednesday morning, Johnson was asked repeatedly how his race would affect his agenda, from selecting a general manager to pursuing free agents.

He was also pressed on the notion that his being African American might have given him an unfair advantage in the decision-making process of a diversity-focused NBA, an irony considering just how long African Americans were kept out of the upper ranks of professional sports.

"I've never heard someone describe being black as a plus; I guess one day it could be," he said, laughing. "That's the conundrum of race in America, that you can't talk about it, but you've got to talk about it. You can't say it should count, but you can't totally discount it. You just try to say, judge me as a man, based on my track record. But then again in a society where race is a factor, we would be foolish to not consider it.

"It'd be like living at the beach and not knowing there's an ocean."

iluvtrent
Dec 19th, 2002, 01:55 PM
Sorry, I'm no fan of RJ. Maybe sports will be a better arena for him because he does a lousy job with BET :(

CHOCO
Dec 19th, 2002, 04:03 PM
http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/images/I6751-2000Mar14



Network Man Hits Nothing but Net

By Michael Wilbon
Thursday, December 19, 2002; Page D01


This isn't Bob Johnson's first expansion project. In fact, I'm willing to bet the first one was more difficult, more stressful and fraught with more risk than owning a new franchise in an established, profitable, internationally acclaimed sports league. A little more than 20 years ago, with then-wife Sheila teaching music at Sidwell Friends, Johnson took out a $40,000 second mortgage on their house in Northwest Washington to start a television network.

Expansion basketball teams have been popping up with some regularity since the 1960s. But while plenty of black businessmen undoubtedly fantasized about starting a network that catered to the specific interests of black folks, Johnson risked everything he and his wife had. And he pulled it off.

He started Black Entertainment Television, which later grew to include a movie channel and a jazz channel. The hip-hop culture wouldn't exist to nearly the degree it does now without BET beaming it to every corner of America and forcing MTV to creatively react with its own hip-hop programming explosion.

Talk about an up-by-the-bootstrap story. Starting with nothing, Johnson built an entertainment empire through sound business acumen and practices and aggressive negotiations. He made his share of enemies along the way. He was, and is, relentless in business and probably had to be for the simple reason that he was a small, independent operator in a ruthless and competitive marketplace, where television and entertainment merged. Johnson's success with BET is not unlike Ted Turner's success with CNN and TBS. And the thing about self-made men is that you don't just lose all that passion and stick-to-itiveness. Now, Johnson wants to pour himself into a basketball franchise, as well as continuing his efforts to get a major league baseball team for Washington.

Johnson once said that every time he had a personal audience with NBA Commissioner David Stern, he would ask him, "David, when do I get a chance to buy a franchise?"

Before this goes any further, let me declare a conflict of interest and feelings. Bob Johnson gave me my start in television, at BET in the mid-1980s when the studio was tiny and still located in Alexandria. Long before the proliferation of sportswriters talking on national TV, Johnson put host Charlie Neal at a sports roundtable every Saturday afternoon for years and it included, on a rotating basis, James Brown, Bryan Burwell, David Aldridge, Ralph Wiley, Bill Rhoden, Glenn Harris, Roy Johnson and me. Bob Johnson paid us, showcased us, and we all went onto bigger paychecks and greater visibility. Doubtful any of us can repay him that debt of gratitude.

To look at BET now makes me angry or depressed. The network recently announced it is eliminating most of its news division, including a first-rate nightly public affairs show hosted by Ed Gordon and its Sunday night show "Lead Story" and, incredibly, "Teen Summit," which over the years has saved countless young lives. Viacom, which bought BET from Johnson a couple of years ago, didn't make these cuts. "This was a decision Bob Johnson and I made," Debra Lee, the network's president and CEO, told The Washington Post this week, clearing up the matter of who is responsible.

It's a heinous decision. News, apparently, costs too much. So BET is now the network of platinum-grilled rappers, provocatively dressed women and all-night infomercials, but not news or pertinent information. And to think we debate the cultural obligation of 27-year-old Tiger Woods. It's sickening to think of all the fabulously talented producers, directors, reporters, technicians and creative folks Johnson and Lee have let go through these kinds of moves -- and of the void for discussions of worthy issues to and for people of color, or anybody interested, in joining in.

So I'm conflicted because I'm angry most days over what BET is likely to become, but old enough to understand the fight Johnson had to wage to get the network running, keep it running and make it successful enough that he would change the face of television and at the same time make himself a billionaire. Johnson, to the best of our knowledge, is the only black billionaire in this country, which means he beat more odds than just about anybody you can shake a stick at.

In an unfortunate remark a few days ago, M.L. Carr, who with Larry Bird was fronting the competing group to be selected by the NBA, said "there is no affirmative action for billionaires." Johnson, who could, if he so chooses, bring aboard local investors in Charlotte, is at present the one voice running the new franchise. The Bird-Carr group was going to have more than a dozen investors, and still needed more money.

The NBA never did like the chaotic way seven people ran the New Jersey Nets. Plainly put, Johnson by himself had more money, apparently a lot more, than the Bird-Carr group. When asked at the introductory news conference in New York yesterday how he would finance the $300 million deal, Johnson looked straight at the questioner and said, "My marketable securities in Viacom stock." Money, not race, ruled the day. Choosing the other group, just because Bird is more visible and Carr played at Guilford College (in North Carolina) and ran the WNBA franchise this past season, would have been, you could make the case, a form of affirmative action. Johnson has roughly the same published net worth as the Dallas Mavericks' Mark Cuban.

That's not to say Johnson's color goes unnoticed today. There are a handful of black men in this country -- including Eddie Gardner (the founder of Soft Sheen Products), who owns a piece of the Chicago Bulls; South Floridian Willie Gary; and Johnson -- who, as Johnson said, all "stand on the shoulders of men like Jackie Robinson."

Johnson's owning the Charlotte franchise is going to immediately impact the way black-owned enterprises and black investors go about their business, personal and commercial. It will probably open the eyes of black athletes, though a little more slowly. The imminently qualified Johnson associate Ed Tapscott (a good friend) should have a team to run, finally. In fact, if Abe Pollin really wants Michael Jordan to stay here and run the franchise, and not move back to his home state of North Carolina, he might want to consider ways to lock up Jordan before Johnson gets a hold of him.

Magic Johnson, who has been every bit the success off the court as he was on, told Bloomberg News, "For the NBA to beat the NFL and [Major League] Baseball [in having a black majority owner], it says a lot about the owners and our great commissioner, David Stern."

It also says a lot about a man, Bob Johnson, who, starting from scratch, was able to make things go his way to a degree that surely leaves others with more resources quite jealous.

CHOCO
Dec 20th, 2002, 01:53 AM
BET's Johnson First Black Owner of Major US Sports Club

Thu Dec 19, 3:50 AM ET Add Entertainment - Reuters/Variety
By Javier David

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Robert Johnson, the billionaire founder of cable TV's Black Entertainment Television, on Wednesday became the first black majority owner of a team in a major U.S. sports league, winning the National Basketball Association franchise in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A group led by Johnson was selected by the NBA's expansion committee, beating out Boston business executive Steve Belkin, whose group included former Boston Celtics star Larry Bird.

"I assure you I will put my heart and soul into this," Johnson, 56, told a press conference at the NBA's retail store in New York.

Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the NBA board of governors, extolled Johnson's business savvy and lauded his selection as the owner of the NBA's newest franchise.

"We are confident in his ability to develop a successful and competitive franchise," Colangelo told reporters. Listing Johnson's accomplishments as an entrepreneur, he added, "He will make a great addition to our list of NBA owners."


NBA Commissioner David Stern emphasized Johnson's business acumen, saying he had turned a $15,000 loan into a $3 billion enterprise in Black Entertainment Television. Johnson sold the company to media giant Viacom Inc. about three years ago but continues as its chief executive.


Johnson said he had been trying land a basketball franchise for years. "This is a terrific honor for me to join your unique club of individuals who have created, in my opinion, the most dynamic sports brand that's ever been created throughout the world," he told the press conference.


The selection of Johnson was fraught with historical overtones, but he rejected the notion that his race was key to the NBA decision in awarding the Charlotte franchise.


"The issue of diversity was important, but in no way was it the determining factor," he said in response to a question. He said the range of his accomplishments "means you ought to look at a person for who they are."


He said he had "a lot of friends in the NBA that can be helpful to me."


Two of those friends are basketball legends Michael Jordan (news) and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. There was speculation that one or both men would be invited to join the Charlotte organization.


Jordan, in a statement, said, "Bob's been trying to get a team ... He loves the game of basketball."


Jordan, who tried to purchase a stake in the Charlotte Hornets before joining the management of the Washington Wizards three years ago, added, "(Charlotte) is a great environment for basketball. I think Bob's going to do well. He has the first thing you need as an owner -- the love of the game."


The new Charlotte franchise replaces one that moved to New Orleans following the 2001-02 postseason. The team will begin play in the 2004-05 season and in 2005 will move to a newly constructed $260 million sports facility in Charlotte.


Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory hailed Johnson's ascendance to the NBA's executive suite. He said the new franchise would be a boost to his city's economy, which suffered a blow when it lost the Hornets to New Orleans.


"Let me say to the citizens of Charlotte, the NBA is back," McCrory said. "We look forward to a friendship for many generations."


Johnson's group will pay nearly $300 million for the team. Johnson said he would finance the purchase with shares of Viacom stock he owns.