New York Jets owner Robert Wood Johnson IV (L) is interviewed by Dav El CEO and NLA board director Scott Solombrino at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center for the keynote presentation.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Philanthropist, civic leader, businessman, and owner of the New York Jets, Robert Wood Johnson, took time from his busy schedule to share his life story with attendees during a “fireside” conversation interview at LCT Show East on Oct. 28.
Sitting down with Scott Solombrino, President and CEO of Dav El Chauffeured Transportation Network, Johnson fielded questions ranging from memories growing up as a member of the famed Johnson & Johnson family, to the ups and downs of owning an NFL team.
“Woody,” as he is often called, spoke of fond memories of his grandfather, who shared stories, advice and the passion that being part of the company was special. “My grandfather would tell us we were doing something great for the world, and I realized early that the company was special, alleviating pain and suffering — that’s a good thing,” he said. He mentioned that the family credo, established in 1947, still holds true for him today: Customers first. Employees second. Community third. Shareholders fourth. “And at the time, he was the only shareholder,” Johnson noted.
Johnson shares his life experiences in sports, business and politics with attendees of LCT Show East.
Family dinners at his grandfather’s house in Princeton, N.J., were black-tie affairs. His grandfather, Robert Wood Johnson II, always dressed formal for dinner and would share stories of his life, the company and the family.
Turning to sports, Solombrino asked Johnson what motivated him to become involved in the NFL as a team owner. While in college at the University of Arizona, Johnson said he became involved in publishing a guide to Monday Night Football. “Well, it failed after three issues, but I met some people from the NFL and had the opportunity to see what the NFL was like, so when the opportunity came about to become an owner of the Jets, I wanted to get involved in sports,” he said.
One of the lessons Johnson said he learned about running a major sports franchise, now in his 14th year, is “there is no manual to run a football team — it is a people business, and every year you learn more about what it takes to be successful. Of course, there is pain and suffering owning a team when they lose,” Johnson quipped.
Another motivating factor that enticed Johnson to become involved in sports was family. “One of the reasons I bought the team was to bring family together,” he said. “When you are at a game, nothing else matters because everyone is focused on the field, so you forget about any squabbles or other things, and it brings us all closer together.”
NLA President Gary Buffo and board directors Michael Campbell, Diane Forgy, Robert Alexander, and Scott Solombrino (R) present Johnson a check on behalf of the NLA for $100,000 to the Alliance For Lupus Research.
In addition to owning the Jets, Johnson, 66, is Chairman and CEO of the Johnson Company, an investment firm, and involved in numerous charitable organizations. He started the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) after his daughter Jamie contracted the disease.
In support of the Alliance For Lupus Research, Ford/Lincoln and the National Limousine Association Harold Berkman Memorial Fund announced a $20,000 contribution to the charity at the end of the interview. It is the first of several installments from the NLA toward donating $100,000 to ALR over the next five years.
Robert “Woody” Johnson
Born: Robert Wood Johnson IV, April 12, 1947
Business: Chairman and CEO, Johnson Company Inc.
Sports: Owner, New York Jets
Boards: Director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International; National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation Inc.
Founder: Alliance for Lupus Research