Celebration of Free Enterprise 2017

About the Event

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March 8, 2017 6:15 p.m. Hilton Tampa Downtown

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One of the Bay Area's premier business networking events, the Celebration of Free Enterprise brings together more than 400 business, government and community leaders annually to honor individuals or leadership teams who have made or are making a significant contribution to the free enterprise system in all areas of endeavor – from politics to the hospitality industry, from banking to new technologies. A celebration in every sense of the word, this not-to-be missed event is fun and always includes special entertainment. The celebration raises funds for student success initiatives at USF's business school.


2017 Honoree: Sheila Johnson

Sheila Johnson

Sheila C. Johnson has been a powerful force in the hospitality and entertainment industries for more than 35 years. The CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Johnson is also the vice chair of Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

A powerhouse in the entertainment industry, she is a woman of firsts.

As a teen, the accomplished violinist was the first African American to be chair at the Illinois all-state competition – an achievement that led to a full scholarship to the University of Illinois to study music. She was also a cheerleader there and excelled in her program.

In business, Johnson has become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America. She was the first woman to be owner 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.

Today, she is active in aviation services. She produces films that convey a strong humanitarian message, such as Kicking It, A Powerful Noise, and Lee Daniels' The Butler. And she oversees a portfolio of luxury properties, including four Florida golf resorts .

An advocate for Tampa Bay in its bid to host the Women's Final Four in 2019, Johnson is a proponent of women's basketball and equality for women in sports. She has championed educational programs for women in business and in October, Johnson will be the first woman to be presented with USF's Celebration of Free Enterprise award, which raises funds for student-centric programs at the USF Muma College of Business.