by Keith Boykin
It’s no secret that I have some longstanding political disagreements with Bob Johnson, the co-founder of BET Networks.
Johnson supported George Bush’s plans to privatize Social Security, that would have left millions of seniors in trouble after last year’s financial collapse. And he also worked with Bush to eliminate the horribly onerous inheritance tax that disproportionately affects about 7 or 8 super rich black people in America.
Then last year Johnson mocked Barack Obama, suggesting that he was busy doing drugs while Hillary Clinton was caring about black people. “I am frankly insulted,” Johnson said, “that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won’t say what he was doing but he said it in his book.”
But there’s a more positive and inspiring side to Bob Johnson and his former wife Sheila. As partners, they developed a hugely successful business model at BET that revolved around low production costs and high revenue generated from cheap advertisement.
The Johnsons sold their BET holdings to Viacom in 1999, and the quality of BET has improved since then, in part, because of a greater emphasis on content instead of capital. To be sure, BET still has some issues. I’ve worked as a TV commentator and host for BET for several years now, through good and bad times, and I’ve heard all the complaints. But this isn’t a story about BET. It’s a story about the Johnsons, who no longer run BET.
I applaud the former power couple for their business acumen, but until now I’ve never known much about Sheila Johnson. Now that I do, I’m not too impressed by her politics either.
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