Carlyle’s betting on Johnson

TV tycoon seeks coin for buyout fund

Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, has teamed with private equity giant the Carlyle Group to seek out media investments.

Johnson’s holding firm, the RLJ Cos., will work through a new private equity firm partly financed by Carlyle that plans to raise at least $500 million for a buyout fund. Carlyle will own up to 20% of the new firm.

RLJ will oversee the investments, which it said will be long-term — and managed by one of the largest teams of African-American professionals in the private equity biz.

“Our strategic alliance with the Carlyle Group will provide both parties with access to a substantial variety of proprietary deal flow,” Johnson said.

“We believe that the private equity market is ripe for a minority-owned and -operated organization,” said Carlyle co-founder and managing director David Rubenstein.

Johnson ran BET for 25 years. He sold it to Viacom for $3 billion in 2001.

He’s on the boards of Hilton Hotels and Lowe’s Cos., Jazz at Lincoln Center and the American Film Institute, as well as the NBA board of governors and the board of governors for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The RLJ Cos.’ core businesses include RLJ Development, a privately held hotel real estate investment company; the RLJ Urban Lodging Fund, with $315 million under management; RLJ Hedge Fund, a joint venture with Deutsche Bank; the NBA Charlotte Bobcats, WNBA Charlotte Sting and Charlotte Arena Operations; Caribbean Gaming & Entertainment; and Three Keys Music, a jazz recording company.

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