BET Co-Founder, Sheila Johnson, is Expanding The Salamander Hotel Brand

Salamander Hotels & Resorts, founded by its CEO Sheila Johnson, is growing rapidly yet strategically, adding three properties in 2022 alone. The expansion brings its portfolio to seven properties located across D.C., South Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Jamaica, and Anguilla. The luxury hospitality management company is capitalizing on a gap in the market to provide accessible, non-traditional luxury without compromising comfort.

“Entrepreneur Sheila Johnson has been steadily expanding her luxury hotel empire. Some call her business, which has lately generated buzz, an overnight success that’s been 17 years in the making,” writes Sean O’Neill for Skift.

In September, the growing empire partnered with Henderson Park to manage a 373-room property formerly known as Mandarin Oriental Washington D.C. The property has since been rebranded to Salamander DC. Its location sits steps from the Tidal Basin — home to the city’s famous cherry blossoms and presidential monuments.

The acquisition follows additional deals to manage Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club on Rendezvous Bay in Anguilla and Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado.

A Challenging Road to Hotel Mogul

Johnson’s hospitality journey began in 2002 when the opportunity arose to purchase a 340-acre horse farm near Middleburg, VA. The sprawling property was previously owned by the late Pamela Harriman.

However, growing concerns about unfamiliar faces and crowds among locals, along with some missteps by her staff at the time, led to a difficult undertaking. Local approval and support took years of negotiations.

Although Johnson’s net worth totals hundreds of millions, financing was hard to come by as a female founder. As such, the entrepreneur ended up funding the resort herself.

The Salamander Resort & Spa is now the company’s flagship. The Forbes Five Star property has 168 guest rooms and suites, a 23,000-square-foot spa, and 25 acres for equestrian activities.

Johnson also purchased her second property, a golf course in Tampa. She bought it out of bankruptcy, and it’s the only other property — besides the Middleburg flagship — that the company owns.

Property management is now Johnson’s preferred approach, making deals easier to close with owner partners.

On her vision for the opportunity at hand, Johnson shares:

“I’ve stayed in many hotels over the world, and the one thing I never felt was a warmth of being embraced into their environment. There’s been a need for a new luxury, a luxury that makes you feel comfortable and welcome but that isn’t overdone.”

Though the privately-owned company doesn’t disclose financial information, Black Enterprise estimated its 2018 revenue at $212 million

Johnson, a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), became worth hundreds of millions after the cable station was sold to Viacom for $3 billion. Johnson also holds stakes in three professional sports teams: NBA Wizards, WNBA Mystics, and NHL Capitals.



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