After $400M Divorce Settlement, Sheila Johnson Married The Judge, Built Her Hotel Empire

After $400M Divorce Settlement, Sheila Johnson Married The Judge, Built Her Hotel Empire


Judge Newman pic: Screenshot from YouTube/ Sheila Johnson pic: David Shankbone)

Businesswoman Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), wasn’t going to let divorce mark the end of her entrepreneurship and various business endeavors.

In fact, after divorcing her husband of 33 years (from 1969 to 2002), BET co-founder Robert Johnson, she walked away with a $400 million divorce settlement and embarked on a new career. She also remarried.

She and Robert Johnson sold BET to Viacom in 1999 for $3 billion. 

On September 24, 2005, she married Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William T. Newman, who had presided over her divorce from Johnson in 2003. Newman and Johnson first met three decades earlier when they acted in a play together with the revered Negro Ensemble Company in Washington, D.C. 

The 73-year-old serial entrepreneur has created a hotel empire. Johnson, who has an estimated $750 million, is now CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts.

She is also team president, managing partner, and governor of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. Johnson is the first African-American woman to be an owner or partner in three professional sports franchises: the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA), and the Washington Mystics (WNBA). 

Johnson founded Salamander Hospitality in 2005. Salamander’s portfolio includes Reunion Resort located in Reunion, Florida; The Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, a 900-acre, 72-hole PGA tour golf course in Palm Harbor, FL; Hotel Bennett in Charleston, South Carolina; Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Aurora Anguilla in British West Indies; and The Salamander Resort & Spa in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Middleburg, Virginia.

In September, she expanded the Salamander Hotel brand. Salamander partnered with Henderson Park to manage a 373-room property formerly known as Mandarin Oriental Washington D.C. The property has been rebranded to Salamander DC. 

The acquisition came on the heels of other deals to manage Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club on Rendezvous Bay in Anguilla and Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado.

“I’ve stayed in many hotels all over the world, and the one thing I never felt was the warmth of being embraced into their environment. There’s been a need for a new luxury, a luxury that makes you feel comfortable and welcome but that isn’t overdone,” said Johnson.

Black Enterprise estimated the privately-held Salamander’s 2018 revenue at $212 million

Judge Newman pic: Screenshot from YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_ruqFEuU8A&t=6s/ Sheila Johnson pic: David Shankbone, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sheila_Johnson_at_the_2008_Tribeca_Film_Festival.JPG)