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Black Woman Builds Her Luxury Resort Brand with Purchase of Five-Star Washington Hotel for $140 Million

The co-founder of BET and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts is the new owner of Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Sheila Johnson, best known for being the first Black woman to have a net worth of at least $1 billion (yes, before Oprah), has purchased a hotel franchise to expand her Washington, D.C., operation, NBC News reported.

Entrepreneur Sheila Johnson (Photo:

“It’s such a great solid foundation that’s already here, and we’re going to make it into the Salamander,” Johnson said. “This is like the athletic and entertainment corridor of Washington, D.C.

Acquisition Details

The acquisition is part of a partnership between Salamander Hotels and a London-based private equity firm named Henderson Park. The 373-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel was bought for $140 million on Maryland Avenue. Salamander will manage the hotel and oversee the rebranding of the luxury hotel.

Johnson said she hopes that her purchase could open the door for other successful women in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area.

Her flagship resort in Middleburg, Virginia, is about 50 miles away from D.C. With the new acquisition, Johnson can grow her vision to curate a “town and country” vibe between the two properties. Hotel guests can now choose between either quiet, country setting, and bustling city life and still stay at a Salamander property.

“From the moment we opened the doors in Middleburg, when there were so many naysayers and there was so much that I went through, this is just the beginning,” says Johnson. “We’re gonna grow this company, and we always strive for excellence, because that’s what the Salamander is.”

The Story Behind Salamander Hotels and Resorts

Johnson founded Salamander in 2005 with veteran luxury hotel and resort executive Prem Devadas. Salamander’s current portfolio includes: Reunion Resort located in Reunion, Florida; The Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, a 900-acre, 72 hole PGA tour golf course in Palm Harbor, Florida; and The Salamander Resort & Spa in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Middleburg, Virginia.

Other Ventures

Since 2005, Johnson has been team president, managing partner, and governor of the WNBA women’s basketball team Washington Mystics. She is the first African-American woman to be an owner or partner in three professional sports franchises: the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA), and the Washington Mystics (WNBA).


Shiela and Robert Johnson were married for 33 years, from 1969 to 2002. They founded the entertainment network BET in 1980 and sold the company to Viacom in 1999 for $3 billion. While the sale pushed Sheila’s net worth to $1 billion, she is currently worth $780 million, according to Forbes.

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