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Sheila Johnson, Hospitality and Entertainment mogul, to be Honored at Celebration of Free Enterprise fundraiser

Sheila Johnson

TAMPA (Jan. 13, 2017) Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and the first woman to own or be an ownership partner in three professional sports teams, is this year's honoree at the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business Celebration of Free Enterprise, scheduled for March in downtown Tampa.

The annual event is among the premier fundraisers for USF's business college, bringing together more than 400 corporate, government and community leaders to honor individuals or leadership teams who have made or are making significant contributions to the free enterprise system. Guests typically range from politicians to the hospitality industry executives; from bankers to technology entrepreneurs.

Proceeds from the event, which begins at 6:15 p.m. on March 8 at Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 N. Tampa St., go into student success initiatives at the Muma College of Business.

Johnson has been a force in the hospitality and entertainment industries for more than 35 years. Besides her duties as CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which she founded in 2005, she also is the vice chair of Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

She oversees a portfolio of luxury properties including a handful of Florida golf and family resorts, one of which is the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

She is a woman of firsts.

As a teen, she was the first African American to chair the Illinois all-state music competition and won a full scholarship to the University of Illinois to study music.

She was first woman to own or partner in three professional sports teams: the NBA's Washington Wizards, the NHL's Washington Capitals and the WNBA's Washington Mystics. She was involved in BET's early days as co-founder of the network – which became the first African-American-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

She also is a partner in Project Aviation, a service specializing in aviation counseling, aircraft acquisitions, charter services and management.

Besides her business concerns, Johnson is a supporter of education and the arts. She serves on various university boards and is a member of the leadership council at Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership. She also is a board member of the Sundance Institute.

And, she finances documentary films, including "Kicking It," which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and "The Other City," a critically acclaimed portrayal of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Washington, D.C.

She is the first woman to be presented with USF's Celebration of Free Enterprise award since the event began in 1987.

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