By Ryan Velez
The Washington Post reports that BET founder Bob Johnson has made things official with long-time girlfriend, Lauren Wooden. This is notable because he is 70 and she is 37.
The two got married at the luxe Auberge du Soleil resort in California’s Napa Valley. The 100-person guest list included music exec L.A. Reid, actor Leon Robinson and former Clinton chief of staff Mack McLarty. The event was officiated by Greg Mathis, better known as Judge Mathis, and Franco Nuschese, the owner of Georgetown’s Cafe Milano, served as best man.
The Post and other sources originally reported on Johnson’s proposal in Paris back in 2016. At the time, Wooden was a 36-year-old student pursuing an international business-management doctorate in Paris. Along with a 7.5-carat ring on top of an ice sculpture, a shower of rose petals, and a bottle of Dom Perignon, following a private after-hours tour and dinner at the Musee Rodin, with the final proposal in front of the sculptor’s “The Kiss.” Amusingly, this isn’t even his first proposal to her, as he made his first proposal after their first date, which she declined. The two were together for five years before this second attempt. It is the second marriage for both. Sheila Johnson, his first wife, is a Black business icon in her own right. Here is some past coverage of what she has done:
“Originally working as a music teacher while teaching private violin lessons on the side, Johnson credits much of her early business knowledge from her days as a private music instructor, which she eventually would do full-time. “I learned tax law, how to deduct for space, even for toilet paper,” she later recalled. “I always kept good records.” This would only stop when her husband, Robert Johnson, landed a $500,000 investment from cable TV mogul John Malone. This would be the beginning of BET in 1979, and in 1989, Johnson would leave her music business to work there full-time.
Despite her role in the founding of BET, she would soon become disillusioned with its direction, focusing mainly on music videos that were often s*xually explicit. “I do worry about young kids at such an early age watching videos day in and day out where young women are … being depicted in demeaning ways. Women and young girls think they should act like that in order to attract a man and behave that way in order to get through life.” This would be a source of dissension between her and her husband, who focused on providing entertainment. Bob Johnson told BET to Viacom for $3 billion in 2000.
However, Sheila Johnson would still put her best foot forward post-divorce. Notably, she founded Salamander Hospitality in 2005. This hospitality and management company runs five Salamander Resort and Spas, one in Virginia, one in North Carolina, and three in Florida. A Black-owned resort and spa is still a rarity indeed. Combined with her sports ownership (a feat only she has accomplished) and it is easy to see why only Oprah Winfrey is ahead of her.
What is the secret to her success? According to an Entrepreneur article, she explained, “When I instinctively feel it is the right move to make, I do it,” adding, “And I don’t do it in a stupid way, I do it where I can see really the upside.”