Johnson a partner in Lincoln Holdings

Updated: May 24, 2005, 3:34 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Former television executive Sheila Johnson became the WNBA's first black female owner Tuesday when a group she headlines purchased the Washington Mystics.

Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, joined Lincoln Holdings LLC to purchase the Mystics from Abe Pollin's Washington Sports & Entertainment. Lincoln Holdings, founded by AOL executive Ted Leonsis, owns the NHL's Washington Capitals and is a 45-percent partner in the Wizards and MCI Center, which Pollin also owns.

At a ceremony Tuesday at MCI Center, which included Pollin and NBA Commissioner David Stern, Leonsis said that Johnson has become a partner in Lincoln Holdings. She will hold the titles of president and managing partner of the Mystics and will represent the team at the board of governors meetings.

"I would not have sold this team to anybody else," Pollin said. "We think it's time for an African-American woman to own a WNBA team. We sought her out, we think she's perfect to run a team."

Her former husband, Robert L. Johnson, who co-founded BET with Johnson, is the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA. The two divorced in 2002.

Sheila Johnson, who lives about 50 miles from Washington, is the director of the Washington International Horse Show, which is held annually at MCI Center.

"I hope that this is a signal that it's about time that a woman, and an African-American woman, is part of this whole scene of sports," Johnson said.

The sale is the latest transfer of Pollin's holdings to Leonsis' group. In 1999, Lincoln Holdings bought the Capitals from Pollin, but Leonsis has said that that team has consistently lost money. The Mystics, meanwhile, have led the WNBA in attendance five times since beginning play in 1997.

"I will say that the Mystics are managed and have been running better than the Washington Capitals. At least they're playing and have a shot at making money," Leonsis said. "So it's an honor to be part of a team that is very vital and has been a leader in attendance so many years.

"Sheila really has a unique perspective on business and management and how to drive our sports teams forward," he added.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press