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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Move Over Oprah: Meet the Other Black Woman Billionaire

By Blair Walker, Special to AOL Black Voices

When she's not managing her sports franchise, starting new businesses, raising her teenage children or preparing for her upcoming nuptials, African-American billionaire Sheila Johnson is busy converting history into herstory.

By now, most people know that her ex-husband, Robert Johnson, created Black Entertainment Television in 1980 and sold it to Viacom 17 years later for a princely $3 billion. Sheila Johnson, 56, wants it to be known that BET wasn’t a one-man concoction by any stretch of the imagination.

She personally signed for a $500,000 loan that got BET up and running, because between her and her then-husband, she was the one with a full-time job at the time. A former concert violinist, Johnson even taught violin lessons in their home to generate income during the early, lean days of BET.

For more than two decades she kept her role as BET's co-creator on the down low, because “it’s the way I was brought up. This was a man that I loved very dearly," Johnson says of Robert Johnson. "He's very intelligent and I wanted to help him."

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