America is the land of opportunity. The saying is a bit cliché, but is it also validated by our plethora of rags to riches stories. John Wayne had a 4 a.m. paper route and delivered groceries after school to help pay the bills. Johnny Cash, born in Arkansas in 1932 to a family of poor sharecroppers, told interviewers more than once of how he almost died of starvation as a child. Joe Louis' father was a cotton picker and Louis initially started boxing to help put food on the table. Robert Johnson, founder and CEO of BET (Black Entertainment Television), can be added to this list. He has traveled the classic American journey from modest origins to unimaginable wealth. From a small factory town in Illinois, Johnson became the only one of his ten siblings to attend college. In 1980, he parlayed a $15,000 bank loan and a $500,000 investment from John Malone (TCI) into Black Entertainment Television (BET), one of cable TV's richest franchises.
[...] Conclusion Is Robert Johnson a shrewd but savvy businessman or a “corporate villain who easily forsakes any social consciousness for the bottom-line satisfaction of his business's shareholders” (Burwell, It seems there are valid arguments for both sides. The feelings of Bryan Burwell, a writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who once worked for Johnson at BET, have summed up America's love-hate relationship with Johnson rather aptly: am completely conflicted against Johnson. The news of his NBA ownership delights me. His rise to prominence inspires me. [...]
[...] On November 3rd Robert Johnson and Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone jointly announced that Viacom had agreed to acquire BET for a total of three billion dollars, consisting of Viacom Class B Common Stock and the assumption of debt. The deal sent shockwaves through the African-American community and cable television industry. A good amount of mutual back- slapping was shared by both sides after the deal: addition of Black Entertainment Television is a significant milestone for Viacom,” said Sumner Redstone, CEO of Viacom. [...]
[...] In the first twenty years of BET, the criticisms Robert Johnson heard were constant, but not overwhelming, like the raindrops in a gentle spring shower. Since selling BET to Viacom, Johnson has been standing in a torrential downpour. As always, Johnson bristles at the criticism constantly thrown in his direction, saying that BET has done a lot to improve the lot of black Americans--but also that that has never been his goal and that it's not his job in the first place. [...]
[...] But, once given access to the full salary cap in 2006, Robert Johnson will have to open his checkbook if he wants the Bobcats to be a competitive team in the NBA. According to NBA's website, Charlotte's payroll for the 2004- 2005 season in $ the lowest in the league. Although that number is low because of aforementioned salary cap restrictions, it is only a little more than half of the Atlanta Hawks' payroll ($39,936,925), the second lowest in the league. [...]
[...] What is astounding is that Robert Johnson had no prior experience running a business and took no business or management classes in college. Johnson shunned formal market research in BET's early days and went by his gut. Johnson used a quote from an old professor to explain his intestinal fortitude when it came to choosing BET's programming. had a professor when I was at Princeton who had this analogy that went, “Most people use statistics the way a drunk uses a street lamp, to hold them up, rather than for illumination” (Johnson, 37). [...]
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