Business Personality / Media Mogul
Date Of Birth:
8 April 1946
Place Of Birth:
Best Known As:
Founder of Black Entertainment Television
Robert L. Johnson was the co-founder and CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET). In 2001 he was named by Forbes magazine as the first black billionaire. He sold BET to Viacom in 2001 and remained CEO until 2006. He has since invested in a variety of businesses, including the professional basketball franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats. Johnson grew up in Illinois and earned a graduate degree in international affairs from Princeton University. In the early 1970s, Johnson found himself in Washington, D.C. during the early expansion of cable television. After a few years as a lobbyist for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Johnson borrowed money to start his own cable brand, BET. Launched in 1980, it was profitable within five years. In the early '90s BET became the first African-American-controlled company to be traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1998 Johnson bought it back and then sold it to Viacom, pocketing a reported $1.5 billion himself and retaining his position as chairman and CEO.