50 Most Powerful Black Women In Business

From the executive suite to the BE 100s, these dynamos are changing the direction of American business

complex transactions, including the first domestic yen issuance for General Electric Capital Corp., the first global bond for DuPont, and the $4 billion initial public offering of Agere Systems.

SHEILA C. JOHNSON CEO Salamander Hospitality L.L.C. Washington, DC. Age: 56
Clout: The BET co-founder is not afraid to exert her largess. Johnson is the first black woman to co-own three professional sports teams: the Washington Mystics (WNBA), Capitals (NHL), and Wizards (NBA). Her latest endeavor is a lifestyle company that includes Market Salamander, a gourmet marketplace; the luxury Salamander Resort & Spa; and Mistral, a bath and body products line. Johnson donated $7 million to Parsons School of Design, the largest donation by an individual.

DEBRA L. LEE Chairwoman, President & CEO Black Entertainment Television Washington, DC. Age: 51
Clout: Becoming the head of a media company wasn’t something Lee planned. “Over time I started getting involved in the business side of things and doing more strategic business development, so it was a natural progression.”
For Lee, succeeding Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson as president and CEO last June and as chairwoman in January may have been unexpected, but it was surely deserved. She is the highest ranking African American woman at Viacom, BET’s parent company, and her tenure with the network spans 20 years. Reaching more than 80 million households in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean, BET has grown from humble beginnings, filling the entertainment void of African Americans, to a multibillion-dollar media conglomerate dominating the urban marketplace.
“We’re the No. 1 network targeted to African Americans and we have been for 25 years. I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” she says. What can and will change with Lee at the helm is BET’s programming. One of her goals this year is to create original programming. “I was at the White House with other black leaders talking to President Bush about issues that are important to our community,” Lee recalls. “We’re a major media network, and people look to us to see what black America is thinking and how things affect us. BET gives me that platform, and I try to use it to better serve our audience.”
— Tennille M. Robinson

LINDA JOHNSON RICE President & CEO Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. Chicago, IL. Age: 47
Clout: Johnson Rice is building upon the legacy of her late father, JPC founder John H. Johnson. Under her leadership, Ebony, the company’s flagship publication, has remained the top-selling African American monthly, and the company is No. 5 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $498.2 million in gross sales. She’s directing the revitalization of the magazine publishing division and developing a strategy to increase Fashion Fair’s share of the beauty market. She further exercises her influence as a board director of Bausch & Lomb Inc., Kimberly-Clark Corp., MoneyGram International, and Omnicom.

PAULA MADISON President & General Manager KNBC Regional General Manager Telemundo Los Angeles, CA. Age: 53
Clout: As the first black woman to become general manager at a network-owned station in a top-five market, Madison has made KNBC

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