Sheila Johnson Adds Fla. Golf Resort to Portfolio

Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila C. Johnson, who has ownership stakes in three Washington professional sports teams, yesterday added a PGA Tour championship golf course in Florida to her hospitality company's growing portfolio.

Johnson's Salamander Hospitality bought the the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Tampa for $35 million from Golf Trust of America, according to a spokesperson for Johnson. Golf Trust, founded in 1996, is a publicly owned company that manages upscale golf courses.

The move is the latest in a series of acquisitions by Johnson, ranging from a multi-million dollar investment in the sports teams to an upscale food service and high-end resorts.

Prem Devadas, president of Middleburg-based Salamander Hospitality, which is Johnson's holding company for her resorts, said Innisbrook's golf locale will dovetail with the celebrity glamour generated by Johnson's interests in Washington sports teams. Johnson is part-owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards and the WNBA Mystics.

"Innisbrook now gives us a property that we envision becoming one of the top golf destinations in the country," Devadas said. "A hospitality company with that type of diverse portfolio is what we set out to do and we are in a growth mode. I expect in the next five years, we are going to add several other very special properties to our portfolio."

That marketing strategy was in evidence at Monday's announcement, which was attended by former Washington Redskins Darrell Green, Art Monk and Charles Mann.

"She is one of the most interesting people in Washington," said Carol Joynt, owner of Nathan's Restaurant in Georgetown and host of an online interview show. "She is a house on fire. When you've got money, you've got to spend it."

Innisbrook is a 900-acre resort with four golf courses, and is consistent with Johnson's latest ventures into tourism and entertainment. The resort's signature course is Copperhead, which hosts the PODS Championship event.

Johnson plans to renovate Innsbrook's tennis and fitness facilities and develop a luxury spa in the next two years.
Johnson's company is currently developing Salamander Resort & Spa, a 168-room luxury resort on 340 acres in Middleburg, Va., scheduled to open in the fall of 2009. Salamander Hospitality also owns and operates Woodlands Resort & Inn, near Charleston, S.C.

Salamander Management Services, a subsidiary of Salamander Hospitality, is helping develop the Royal Cosmopolitan Hotel in New Orleans, and The Colosseum in Blacksburg, Va. The company has also launched a division of gourmet prepared food markets called Market Salamander with locations in Middleburg and Palm Beach, Fla.

Johnson two years ago bought into Lincoln Holdings, the umbrella company AOL mogul Ted Leonsis formed several years ago for his local sports team interests, which includes the Capitals, Mystics and minority shares in the Verizon Center and Wizards. Johnson holds the titles of president, managing partner and governor for the Mystics.
--Thomas Heath

By Mike Shepard  |  July 16, 2007; 6:31 PM ET  | Category:  Hospitality
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