Woody Johnson

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Woody Johnson
Robert Wood Johnson official portrait.jpg
United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Assumed office
November 8, 2017
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyLewis Lukens
Yael Lempert
Preceded byMatthew Barzun
Personal details
Robert Wood Johnson IV

(1947-04-12) April 12, 1947 (age 73)
New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Nancy Sale
(m. 1977; div. 2001)

Suzanne Ircha (m. 2009)
ParentsBobby Johnson
Betty Wold
RelativesChristopher Johnson
ResidenceWinfield House
EducationUniversity of Arizona (BA)

Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV (born April 12, 1947) is an American businessman and diplomat who is currently United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom.[1][2] He is a great-grandson of Robert Wood Johnson I (co-founder of Johnson & Johnson). With his brother, Christopher, he is the owner of the New York Jets of the National Football League.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States. He is the son of Betty (Wold) and Robert Wood Johnson III, president of Johnson & Johnson for four years. Johnson grew up with four siblings, Keith Johnson, Billy Johnson, Elizabeth "Libet" Johnson, and Christopher Wold Johnson, in affluent areas of northern New Jersey, and attended the Millbrook School. He graduated from the University of Arizona. Johnson then worked menial summer jobs at Johnson & Johnson with the expectation of ascending to the top of the family business.[5]



Johnson became involved in charitable organizations full-time in the 1980s. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His family has been affected by both lupus and juvenile diabetes, which motivated Johnson to take a role in raising funds to prevent, treat, and cure autoimmune diseases. He has led efforts on Capitol Hill and at the National Institutes of Health to increase research funding for these diseases,[6] and personally contributed to causes related to diabetes, after his daughter, Casey, was diagnosed with the disease. He started a research foundation, the Alliance for Lupus Research, after his daughter Jaime was found to have lupus.[7]


On January 18, 2000, Johnson purchased the Jets for $635 million, the third-highest price for a professional sports team and the highest for one in New York. Johnson, who also owns courtside seats to the New York Knicks, outbid the $612 million offered by Charles Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, and the Rangers. The team sold for more than $100 million above what some sports finance analysts had expected. Forbes now values the team at $ 2.85 billion.[8]

After buying the Jets, Johnson announced plans to move them to the proposed West Side Stadium in Manhattan. However, after the project's defeat in 2005, Johnson announced the Jets would move to a new Meadowlands Stadium as an equal partner with the Giants. The new stadium opened on April 10, 2010, with naming rights being acquired by MetLife. Johnson served on the NFL Commissioner search committee in which a list of 185 candidates to succeed Paul Tagliabue was narrowed down to the final choice of Roger Goodell.

Private ventures and legal problems[edit]

Johnson is the chairman and chief executive of the Johnson Company, Inc., a private investment firm founded in 1978. In August 2006, Johnson was asked to testify before the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations regarding his participation in a tax avoidance scheme. A Senate report said that Johnson, along with others, was able to buy, for relatively small fees, roughly $2 billion in capital losses that they used to erase taxable gains they garnered from stock sales. The U.S. Treasury lost an estimated $300 million in revenue as a result. In a statement, Johnson said he had been advised by his lawyers in 2000 that the transaction "was consistent with the Tax Code." After the Internal Revenue Service challenged that view in 2003, Johnson in 2006 settled with the IRS and agreed to pay 100 percent of the tax due plus interest.[9]

Johnson was the committee president of the Pre-Commissioning Unit for the San Antonio-class ship USS New York.[10]


Johnson's first official Ambassador portrait

Johnson has given more than $1 million to various Republican candidates and committees. In May 2008, he orchestrated a fundraiser in New York City that brought in $7 million in a single evening for John McCain, by far the largest amount collected up to that point by a campaign that had been struggling to raise money. Johnson also provided significant funding to the Republican National Convention of 2008 in Minneapolis–St. Paul convention host committee; from a $10 million shortfall, Johnson contributed personally and solicited friends to assist in covering the convention deficit.[11] In 2011, Woody Johnson announced that he would endorse former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election.[12]

On September 23, 2013, Johnson hosted a fundraiser for the Republican National Committee at his home in New York City.[13]

In June 2015, Johnson was named the National Finance Chairman for Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential campaign.[14] In May 2016, Johnson endorsed Trump for president.[15]

United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom[edit]

On January 19, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he planned to nominate Johnson to become United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom.[16][17] On June 22, 2017, Trump nominated Johnson for the position.[18] The nomination was referred to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on June 26, 2017, and a hearing was held on July 20, 2017.[19] Johnson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 3, 2017.[20] He was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on August 21, 2017, in the Oval Office. Johnson presented his credentials to Queen Elizabeth II on November 8, 2017, formally becoming Ambassador.[21]

Chlorinated-chicken incident[edit]

In March 2019, Johnson wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph saying that chlorinated chicken was a "public safety no-brainer" and that health fears over hormone-fed beef were "myths".[22] This came after he urged the UK to open up to the US agriculture market after the British exit from the European Union and ignore the "smear campaign" of those with "their own protectionist agenda".[23] Johnson was criticised by several agriculture standard boards, such as the Red Tractor Assurance whose CEO, Jim Moseley stated the UK's food standards were "now under threat from ... the United States food lobby" and the National Farmers Union who said it was "imperative" that UK food standards remain high.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Woody Johnson and his wife Suzanne Ircha Johnson with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump

In 1977, Johnson married former fashion model Nancy Sale Johnson. They had three children before divorcing in 2001. In early 2010, daughter Casey Johnson died of diabetic ketoacidosis.[24]

In 2009, Johnson married Suzanne Ircha Johnson, a former actress and equities managing director at Sandler O'Neill & Partners.[25][26] They have two children.[27]

Johnson has homes in Bedminster Township, New Jersey, and Manhattan, New York City.[28]


  1. ^ "Woody Johnson nominated as US ambassador to Britain". The Guardian. June 22, 2017. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  2. ^ "PN691 — Robert Wood Johnson IV — Department of State". U.S. Congress. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  3. ^ "Sale Johnson and Ahmad Rashad Get Married Monday". Transworldnews.com. November 21, 2007. Archived from the original on February 29, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  4. ^ Richard Sandomir (January 12, 2000). "Philanthropist and Fan". New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2008. Robert Wood Johnson IV, whose great-grandfather founded Johnson & Johnson, won the right yesterday to buy the Jets for $635 million, the third-highest price for a professional sports team and the most for one in New York.
  5. ^ Wilson, Duff (November 11, 2004). "Behind the Jets, a Private Man Pushes His Dream". New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2010. He grew up in affluent areas of New Jersey, attended the elite Millbrook School in the Hudson Valley and worked menial summer jobs at Johnson & Johnson with the expectation of ascending to the top of the family business.
  6. ^ "Board of Directors". Alliance for Lupus Research. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  7. ^ Halligan, Tom. "NY Jets' Woody Johnson Shares Insights At LCT Show East". LCT. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  8. ^ "New York Jets Team Value". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  9. ^ Birnbaum, Jeffrey H. (August 1, 2006). "Tax Shelters Saved Billionaires a Bundle". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ "Navy News Service - Eye on the Fleet". September 4, 2009. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009.
  11. ^ Luo, Michael (September 5, 2008). "Convention Limelight Shines on a Big Donor". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Haberman, Maggie (November 11, 2011). "Woody Johnson says Chris Christie's Mitt Romney endorsement a game-changer". Politico.
  13. ^ "GOP stars to headline party fundraiser". CNN. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  14. ^ Reinhard, Beth; O'Connor, Patrick (June 24, 2015). "Jeb Bush Picks Woody Johnson as Finance Chairman". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  15. ^ Cosentino, Dom (May 24, 2016). "Jets owner Woody Johnson backs Donald Trump, per reports". nj.com. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  16. ^ Borger, Julian (January 19, 2017). "New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to be US ambassador to UK". The Guardian. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  17. ^ Schouten, Fredreka (May 17, 2017). "President Trump's ambassador picks sit in limbo". USA Today. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  18. ^ Zurcher, Anthony (June 23, 2017). "Woody Johnson: Trump picks NFL tycoon as UK ambassador". BBC News. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  19. ^ "Tracking how many key positions Trump has filled so far". Washington Post. July 14, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  20. ^ Bieler, Des (August 3, 2017). "Jets owner Woody Johnson confirmed as ambassador to the U.K." Washington Post. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  21. ^ "Donald Trump's man in London presents credentials to Queen". Belfast Telegraph. November 8, 2017. Archived from the original on November 19, 2019. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  22. ^ "UK-US trade deal: Envoy attacks 'myths' about US farming". BBC. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Doward, Jamie (March 2, 2019). "US ambassador to UK under fire over defence of chlorinated chicken". The Guardian. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  24. ^ "Coroner: Casey Johnson died of natural causes - CNN.com". CNN. February 4, 2010.
  25. ^ "Wall Street firms vow to rebuild". USA Today. January 25, 2002.
  26. ^ "The Hollywood Gossip - Celebrity Gossip and Entertainment News". Bittenandbound.com. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  27. ^ Grant Cumberbatch, Aimee (June 25, 2018). "Who Is Robert Wood 'Woody' Johnson? The U.S. Ambassador Is A Personal Friend Of Trump". Bustle. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  28. ^ Sandomir, Richard (January 12, 2000). "The Jets Fill One Opening: New Owner at $635 Million". The New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2010. Johnson, who is 52 years old, has homes in Manhattan and Bedminster, N.J.

External links[edit]

Media related to Woody Johnson at Wikimedia Commons

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Matthew Barzun
United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom