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Robert Johnson: A profile

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  1. Introduction.
    1. America - the land of oppertunity.
    2. The son of a factory worker - Robert Johnson.
  2. Robert Johnson's prior experiences in running a business.
    1. Johnson and BET.
    2. 1991, BET reached 31 million subscribers - Johnson's move to make the company public.
  3. BET in the 21st Century.
    1. Forbes Magazine rankings of Johnson and Redstone.
    2. Mel Karmazin's remark on Viacom's impressive first quarter marks.
  4. The end of Black Entertainment Television.
    1. The sale to Viacom.
    2. Robert Johnson accused of completely ignoring BET's African-American Canadian viewers.
    3. Blatant act of exploitation of African-American culture for the sake of ratings.
  5. Robert Johnson enters a new 'Arena' of business.
    1. Cuban's comments and the accusations that his color played a major role in his successful bid for the Charlotte team.
  6. Conclusion.

?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. [...]

[...] Robert Johnson had good reason to be so pleased with the deal; for his 63% stake in BET (he had previously sold of the company to BET President Debra Lee), ?Johnson received Viacom stock now worth $ 1.3 billion? (Pulley, 8). The deal also made him the first black billionaire in the United States, putting him 172 on the 2001 Forbes Magazine 400 list of richest Americans. Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone, in comparison, was ranked number nine. The high Forbes Magazine rankings of Johnson and Redstone in 2001 were more than justified. [...]

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