Sheila Johnson

Sheila C. Johnson

Founder and CEO, Salamander Hotels and Resorts

co-founder, BET


Sheila C. Johnson is Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts (SHR), which operates a collection of luxury properties.  It is ranked No.4 in Minority-Owned Companies in the Washington DC Metro area.1  Additionally, it is ranked No.4 as the Largest Women-Owned Businesses in Greater D.C.2

SHR includes the equestrian-inspired Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, which has been awarded the distinguished Forbes Five Star rating. The collection also features Innisbrook in Tampa Bay, which is home to the annual PGA Valspar Championship; The Henderson, a luxury beach resort in Destin, Florida; the spectacular Hotel Bennett in Charleston, South Carolina; and Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which recently opened a new resort experience called Eclipse.  

As Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Ms. Johnson is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals (2018 Stanley Cup Champions), and the WNBA’s 2019 World Champions Washington Mystics, for which she serves as President and Managing Partner.  She also served on the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association where she spearheaded efforts in increasing diversity in the game of golf.

In 2017, Ms. Johnson was named on Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 America’s Richest Self-Made Women.  WE Capital, a venture capital consortium to support and invest in female-led enterprises with a goal of promoting social impact and generating financial returns was spearheaded by her in 2016. She also served on the board of the Greater Washington Partnership (GWP), which seeks to strengthen the region’s global position as a center for commerce and innovation. Currently, she is Co-Chair of GWP’s Inclusive Growth Council, bringing together business leaders from across the region that will work together to make the Capital Region a national model for advancing equitable economic solutions.

Ms. Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry, starting with her work as founding partner of Black Entertainment Television. She has served as executive producer for documentaries and feature films including the Screen Actors Guild nominated feature film Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Ms. Johnson is founder and chair of the Middleburg Film Festival, an annual celebration of independent film that opened to sell-out crowds in October 2013.  The festival is dubbed by the Washington Post as “an itty-bitty Cannes…” and referred to by RogerEbert.com as “…the place to be during Oscar season”.  It continues to attract Oscar worthy films such as Greenbook, La La Land, Parasite, The Two Popes, Minari, Nomadland, and Sound of Metal.

A fervent supporter of education and the arts, Ms. Johnson serves on the Board of Governors for the College of Performing Arts at the New School in New York, and recently served as a member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership.  From 2014 through 2019, the Sheila C. Johnson Fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School supported a cohort of 50 fellows – emerging leaders dedicated to improving the lives of the underserved in the United States, including those in the African-American community.   She is also a board member of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, creating the Rachel Robinson International Fellowship program.  This program aims to provide scholars the opportunity for international service and study abroad.  Ms. Johnson is also on the  board of trustees for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and an Advisory Council member for the American Ballet Theatre.  

A strong believer in women’s empowerment, Ms. Johnson served as a global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that combats global poverty by empowering women. She also served as a member of Accordia Global Health Foundation’s International Council, rallying support for the foundation’s efforts to overcome the burden of infectious diseases in Africa.

In recognition of her humanitarian efforts and accomplishments, she has been honored with several awards including the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, Lincoln Medal Award, Women’s Sports Foundation Billie Jean King Leadership Award,  W. E. B. Du Bois Medal, the Annie Oakley Award;  Lincoln Academy of Illinois’ The Order of Lincoln medal, Jacob Burns Film Center Vision Award, Feminist Press’ Feminine Award,  and the Washington Business Hall of Fame Laureates award. 

An accomplished violinist, Ms. Johnson received a Bachelor of Arts in music from the University of Illinois, as well as honorary degrees from numerous other institutions


[1] “The List: Minority-Owned Companies,” March 22, 2019; Washington Business Journal

[2] Proctor, Carolyn M. “Largest Women-Owned Business in Greater D.C.” Washington Business Journal. 29 October 2019.