WNBA Has 1st African-American Female Owner

By Off the BASN Sports Wire
Updated: May 24, 2005

Sheila Johnson will hold titles of President, Managing Partner and Governor for the Mystics.

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Washington DC,-Washington Sports and Entertainment Chairman Abe Pollin announced today that he has sold the Washington Mystics to Lincoln Holdings LLC, where the franchise will be led by BET co-founder Sheila Johnson.

“I am extremely proud to make this announcement,” said Pollin. “I have known Sheila Johnson for 20 years and I have been absolutely impressed with her enthusiasm and business acumen. She will be a tremendous owner, and most importantly she is the ideal person to continue to guide this team that Irene and I founded.”

“I am delighted to join Abe and Irene Pollin, Ted Leonsis and the partners of Lincoln Holdings in becoming part of a fabulous sports franchise,” said Johnson. “Together we will build on the solid foundation and develop the teams to reach their full potential and greatness. I am particularly excited about working with our Mystics and doing all that I can personally to build a winning team and to bring even greater vitality to the WNBA.”

Johnson will hold titles of President, Managing Partner and Governor for the Mystics and becomes a partner in Lincoln Holdings LLC. Lincoln Holdings owns the Washington Capitals and has a minority interest in Washington Sports & Entertainment Limited Partnership, the Pollin-owned company which controls the Washington Wizards, Washington/Baltimore TicketMaster, in-house promoter Musicentre Productions, and the management of MCI Center and the George Mason University Patriot Center.

“We are honored to welcome Sheila Johnson into Lincoln Holdings and to take over stewardship of the Washington Mystics,” said Ted Leonsis, Majority Owner and Chairman of Lincoln Holdings. “We are big believers and supporters of women’s basketball and believe Sheila will help lead the team to success on and off the court.”

Johnson is believed to be the first African-American woman to be an owner/partner in three professional sports franchises. With her partnership in Lincoln Holdings LLC, Johnson will be a part owner in the Capitals, Mystics and Wizards.

In 1980, Sheila Johnson co-founded Black Entertainment Television (BET). She served as executive vice president of corporate affairs and helped build the foundation that turned the first cable television network aimed at African-American viewers into a nationwide media powerhouse. Johnson spent 17 years at BET until the company was acquired by Viacom in 1997. Johnson served as a member of BET Holding Inc.’s Board of Directors until 2001. Johnson is currently Chief Executive Officer of Salamander Hospitality LLC.

A generous philanthropist, Johnson has donated millions of dollars to countless charities, including the Hill School in Middleburg, VA, where the Sheila C. Johnson Performing Arts Center was built. The modern facility was designed to support children’s art education in the Middleburg area.

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Illinois, Johnson is mother to two children.

The Mystics joined the WNBA on December 16, 1997 as an expansion team through the efforts of Abe and Irene Pollin. In their seven seasons in the league, the team has qualified for two appearances in the postseason, highlighted by their participation in the Eastern Conference Championship round against the New York Liberty in 2002. The team also hosted the 2002 WNBA All-Star Game at MCI Center.

While the team has achieved on-court success over the years, the Mystics have made their most notable mark in the team’s relationship with its fans. Since their first season of play in 1998, Washington has led the WNBA in attendance five times and has seen over one million fans attending games.