Robert L. Johnson

Born April 8

Chairman, Black Entertainment Television; founder, RLJ Companies

“When you go through life you have goals and objectives that are not clearly defined. But you know where you’d like to be.

“If there was one thing that clearly defined my life in business, it was when I got introduced to the cable television industry when I was a press secretary on Capitol Hill. This lady who was the secretary to the president of the trade association said: ‘You’d make a good lobbyist for the cable industry.’ I said I didn’t know anything about cable. She said: ‘You’ll be fine.’

“BET came together because I understood that cable needed programming. Back 25 years ago, each network had maybe one show with black stars and what was on wasn’t necessarily positive. I went to John Malone and he invested the first half a million.

“I just focus on the excitement of the things I am doing. I focus on my basketball team, on hanging out with my kids. All entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature.

“I want to create the pre-eminent African-American asset management company. We have a great opportunity to do that. We have a joint venture with Carlisle and another one with Deutsche Bank Asset Management. That’s what I’m calling my second act.

“Life takes you through various changes and luck plays a great part in it. If you look back on it, you can look back on it in amazement. When I graduated from the University of Illinois I had a teaching degree; I went to Princeton wanting to be an ambassador. Now you’re talking about something esoteric like a hedge fund of funds. It’s what life is about.”

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