BET co-founder Sheila Johnson succeeds all over the map | Reuters

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Dan Grebler)

Q: What have you learned so far from the hotel business?

Q: With the teams you have a stake in – the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics – what has been the big lesson?

The range goes like this: accomplished violinist, co-founder of popular cable network Black Entertainment Television, co-owner of professional sports franchises, CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts.

NEW YORK Most people would be thrilled to succeed in one field. Whenever we trade a player, they never speak to me again. I’m their safety net.

Q: Any particular type of investment that attracts you?

Q: How did you handle that success with your personal portfolio?

A: Things don’t come overnight in life – you have to persevere and stay focused. I don’t have to do a thing for her. Without his $500,000 in startup money, we might not have made it, because no one else thought we could pull it off.

For the latest in Reuters “Life Lessons” series, Johnson, 68, sat down to share a few ingredients in her secret recipe for success.. Failure only helps you grow.

Q: How do you make your philanthropic decisions?

A: I get that constantly. Sheila Johnson has triumphed in some remarkably different ones.

Q: How did that start in music help shape your business career?

Q: How did you transition from that world to co-founding BET with your now-ex-husband Bob Johnson?

A: Patience, patience, patience. That is how we pay it forward. Ted Leonsis once said to me, ‘Sheila, don’t get too close to the players, because they will break your heart.’ And he was right. Eventually we would like to get up to 10 or 15 hotels in the luxury market.

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. With my company, a CFO runs it, and three other people working under the CFO watch everything I buy and make sure no one is abusing credit cards. Some things I have learned about investing: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, trust no one and keep an eye on the m88a bottom line. They are two of the most hard-working kids I know. Even if I baked them cookies!

Q: What life lessons do you pass along to your kids?

A: It was tough, because no one else was doing it. My son is a menswear designer who just had his first show for New York’s Fashion Week. But there is one women’s investment fund that I participate in, called WE Capital. These are handpicked students from underserved backgrounds. Twelve of us have pooled our money – ranging from half a million to over a million each – to invest in companies started by women, owned by women and on their way to making a real social impact. The opinions expressed are his own.)

A: I have an investment manager at JP Morgan who keeps tabs on everything and watches my back. Music does that for you. It is not charity, though – it is business.

A: I make sure to have a personal CFO. It was a risky project, and it cost me a lot of money, but now it’s paying off. So I’m very proud of them – but even if they fell on their faces, they should never be ashamed of it. For instance, I help 50 fellows at Harvard’s Kennedy School. But we had an angel investor, John Malone, who believed in us and funded us all the way through our eventual sale to Viacom. I always knew it was going to work, but it has been 10 years to get it up and running. If you are part of a string quartet, you have to be focused on the conductor and know exactly when to come in, because if your mind wanders in the least, you are finished.

A: When I first came into owning the teams, I was so excited, but felt so much pressure to make it a success. It is a true checks-and-balances system. It also teaches you to be a better listener and communicator. There is no loyalty in sports. My daughter is a show jumper who runs her own business and travels the world. Even today, I sign all the checks at my company personally.

By Chris Taylor


A: It is all about character, integrity and the way they conduct themselves. But I know in my heart where I want to help people. We had a vision of bringing the African-American voice to the cable world, and at first, we couldn’t get any advertisers to believe in that vision

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