The Ex-Spouse Who Roared: Sheila Johnson's Revelations
By Richard Leiby
Sunday, May 30, 2004; Page D03
Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson didn't cooperate on a new bio of him, "The Billion Dollar BET," but his ex-wife, Sheila Johnson, was willing to dish to author Brett Pulley about the philandering that she says broke up their business partnership and three-decade marriage. "He's a brilliant businessman," she tells Pulley, but adds that extramarital affairs "were his biggest problem. He has got a body count." The couple divorced in late 2002.
In the book, Sheila Johnson also reveals that she was fired from BET by her husband in the late 1990s. "All of us were fired,'' she says, referring to herself and a group of senior execs who helped Johnson build the company. "It got nasty, very nasty." And Pulley reports on what many Washingtonians and cable industry insiders have long whispered about: the relationship between CEO Bob Johnson and his current chief operating officer, Debra Lee. "That affair with Debra just hurt me more than anything, because I knew her, and I couldn't believe she would do that," Sheila Johnson told Pulley, a senior editor at Forbes. "I find the whole thing tragic."
BET spokesman Michael Lewellen told us Friday that neither Johnson nor Lee would comment, adding, "This was an unauthorized biography and Bob Johnson did not participate in the writing of the book." As for any relationship between Lee and her boss, Lewellen said: "Bob Johnson is divorced and Ms. Lee is divorced and that's the most we talk about in terms of their personal lives."
Michael Huffington, Plane Speaking
• In the "problems we'll never personally have" department:
Michael Huffington, the ex-congressman from California who famously spent $30 million of his own money to lose a U.S. Senate race to Dianne Feinstein in 1994, is embroiled in another costly battle -- this time over a luxury private jet. His years-long quest to buy a $38 million Global Express aircraft has turned into a one-man crusade against the jet's Canadian manufacturer.
Huffington (also well-known as the bisexual Republican ex-husband of pundit Arianna) is in court with Bombardier Aerospace, with both sides alleging bad faith in a dispute over the jet's delivery. After the aircraft, which Huffington says he put a $12 million deposit on, was struck by lightning during a test flight last year, Huffington decided he wanted a new one. He claims the Global Express is hit by lightning far more than its competitors, and wants U.S. and Canadian transportation officials to investigate.
"It involves safety. There is the possibility of catastrophic damage," he told us last week. "Bombardier has to take this seriously."
Responded company spokesman Leo Knaapen: "I'm not going to comment on something that sounds absurdly ridiculous. Airplanes all over the world get hit by lightning; this is an aviation fact." Such strikes "do not discriminate by aircraft type or age," he added.
A Los Angeles investment manager who owns an aviation services firm, Huffington has 25,000 shares of Bombardier and recently launched a shareholder proposal asking the company to create a "customer code of ethics and satisfaction." The annual meeting is Tuesday in Montreal. "They may let me in, but they may not let me speak," he said.
In any event, Huffington no longer wants to buy a Global Express. "I'm chartering Gulfstreams and Falcons as needed."
• "Everything is true," Jessica Cutler, the Senate staffer fired for posting her intimate diary on the Internet, declared when we asked the other day whether she really led such an active sex life. But various bloggers have since called into question two prosaic details. Cutler is not 24, but 26, according to voting records, and she did not earn a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University, the school's registrar confirmed Friday. Cutler did not return a call for comment.
• Publisher Alfred A. Knopf is speeding up publication of "My Life," Bill Clinton's long-in-the-works, 957-page autobiography. Copies are now due to hit stores June 22. Cover price is $35, but Amazon.com has already slashed that by 40 percent for preorders.
A Rock Garden of Political Delight
• Music mag Blender celebrates the election year by listing "the most rock & roll politicians ever" in its new issue. We culled that list to create a quiz: Can you match the public servant responsible for the rocking behavior?
1. Sang Rolling Stones songs in a band called Ugly Rumours.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company