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Johnson wheels and deals to fulfill ambitions for RLJ

Anyone keeping track of Robert L. Johnson, chairman and chief executive of Bethesda-based RLJ Cos., probably noticed the batch of deals he has closed in the past four months: a couple of hotels, a few equity ventures. Before the ink could dry on any of those agreements, the billionaire businessman had several more in the works, including plans for a debt equity fund and another community bank.

Since selling Black Entertainment Television to Viacom in 2001 for $3 billion, Johnson, 64, has made aggressive moves to turn RLJ into a full-fledged conglomeration. The Bethesda company, with roughly $5 billion under management, owns or holds interests in 11 companies that have a hand in everything from automobile dealerships to insurance services.

Johnson has an eye out for opportunities that can achieve what he calls β€œthe double bottom line,” creating value for investors while benefiting minority communities. His ultimate aim, however, is to grow RLJ into one of the largest African American-owned asset management firms.

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