Over the past several decades, businessman Woody Johnson has built a highly successful career. Not only has he seen immense success in the world of business, but as his career matured, he has extended his attentions to both philanthropy and diplomacy. Johnson has accomplished much over the course of his lengthy career and gives much of the credit to his life experiences and the support of his family.
Early Life and Education
From birth, Woody Johnson had strong ties to the world of business due to the family he hails from. Woody Johnson is the great-grandson of Robert Wood Johnson I, co-founder of the now-multinational corporation Johnson & Johnson. This has led many to deem Johnson the heir to Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical, medical device, and consumer goods fortune.
Johnson was born on April 12, 1947 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His parents were prominent philanthropist Betty Wold Johnson and Robert Wood Johnson III, former president of Johnson & Johnson.
While growing up alongside his four siblings in northern New Jersey, Johnson had the opportunity to attend the esteemed Millbrook school, a preparatory academy located in Dutchess County, New York. Later, he would go on to attend the University of Arizona, where he earned his degree. Throughout his teen and young adult years, Johnson spent his summers working at Johnson & Johnson.
After graduating from college, Woody Johnson swiftly went on to build a successful and well-rounded career.
Perhaps most notably, Johnson is widely known as the benefactor who purchased the New York Jets in 2000. Johnson purchased the Jets for $635 million, and the team would later go on to be appraised for $3.2 billion as of 2019. Johnson served as the acting owner and CEO of the Jets until 2017, when a career in international politics beckoned.
Currently, Woody Johnson co-owns the Jets with his brother Christopher Johnson. Although he eventually passed the CEO role onto his brother Christopher, Johnson is still involved with the team. According to Christopher, Jets insiders expect Woody Johnson to soon return to his role as CEO of the team. Once this occurs, Christopher will become the football team’s vice-president.
Although Johnson had been involved in political fundraising for a number of years, it wasn’t until 2017 that he took on an international diplomatic position. Impressively, before Johnson took on this role, he had no diplomatic experience under his belt. Nevertheless, despite a lack of first-hand experience, Johnson has always had a strong passion for supporting US-UK ties, which he believes to be important to ensuring the long-term well-being of the United States. Johnson also has a strong interest in military history, and it is his understanding of the post-war partnership formed between the United States and the United Kingdom that reinforced his diplomatic beliefs.
His passion and interests placed Johnson at the forefront of those considered for a diplomatic role that would serve both the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2017, former President Donald Trump selected Johnson for the role of United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He served admirably in this role for four years, until his departure in January 2021 with the election of a new administration.
Truly, it is not surprising that Johnson has invested so much of his own personal time and funds into philanthropic causes. Woody Johnson’s mother was Betty Wold Johnson, a renowned philanthropist who had a charitable career spanning many decades. In fact, Betty’s philanthropic work continued up until her death in 2020, at the age of 99. Certainly, Johnson has made an effort to follow in his mother’s footsteps. However, while Betty Wold Johnson focused her philanthropic efforts on the arts, a large portion of Woody Johnson’s charitable donations have funded critical medical research.
Notably, Woody Johnson raised money and lobbied in an effort to increase federal funding for diabetes and lupus research. In his efforts to support diabetes research, Woody Johnson served as the chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Currently, Woody Johnson is serving as the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR)’s founding chairman. He founded the organization in 1999, after his daughter was diagnosed with Lupus. Since then, Johnson has worked to fund further research regarding the disease.
Johnson works prominently with the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust and serves as a trustee. In fact, among current members of the Johnson family, he is the sole individual to be invited to serve on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation board.
The Personal Life and Family of Woody Johnson
Woody Johnson has always been highly invested in his family life and is considered a true family man.
Johnson first married in 1977 to Nancy Johnson, a former fashion model. The couple went on to have three children. However, they would eventually divorce in 2001, and Johnson did not remarry until a number of years later. In 2009, Woody Johnson married Suzanne Johnson, who is his current wife. Suzanne currently serves as the equities managing director at Sandler, O’Neill & Partners. With Suzanne, Woody Johnson has had two more children and now resides in Palm Beach, Florida.