Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Billionaire Sheila Johnson has vision for Innisbrook golf resort

Sheila Johnson, America's first black female billionaire, has her fingers in a lot of different pies.

The co-founder of the BET network, Johnson has a stake in three sports teams: the WNBA's Washington Mystics, the NBA's Washington Wizards and the NHL's Washington Capitals. Her burgeoning Salamander Hospitality company is set to open another luxury resort and spa next year in Middleburg, Va. She is also producing a movie starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey and designing her own line of scarves.

But recently, her attention has been focused on Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, the host of this week's PGA Transitions Championship, which ends Sunday. Transitions Optical did not renew its contract to sponsor the event, making it the only televised PGA tournament without a title sponsor for 2013.

Johnson is out to find a new sponsor and promote the resort, which she bought in 2007.

She sat down with the Tampa Bay Times this week to talk about her goals, the hotel business and her golfing skills.

What are your goals for Innisbrook in 2012?

To get the (PGA) sponsor, that's my first goal. My second goal is to continue to expand the membership, to get the word out to the public that everyone's welcome here. My goal is to make this place one of the best destination resorts in the Tampa Bay community, in Florida. I want people to look at it not just as a golf course, but as a place where their family can come, a place for healing and wellness, relaxation, destressing.

How did Innisbrook do coming out of the recession?

Last year we broke even, and this year we hope to do even better than that. And there's a lot of properties that can't boast that kind of record. We are crawling out of some very tough times, but I don't want to use that as an excuse. I know we can make anything work. Ever since I bought the property, we have been going uphill. It's just terrific. One thing I want people to understand, this is not an exclusive resort where people are shut out. We're open to the public. People can come here and dine, they can play golf, they can use the spa. We're open for business here. We're no longer just a golf resort, we're a resort for families.

Obviously, Innisbrook gets a lot of national attention as the host of a PGA tournament, but you are also looking to bring an LPGA event here. What do you have to do to get one?

Find a sponsor.

What are you doing to replace Transitions Optical as the title sponsor? Are there any prospects for a new one?

Everybody is a prospect. I have been calling in my chips and everybody I know that sits on corporate boards. I've been in very close touch with the PGA; they're helping us look. We're doing as much as we can. I'm making phone calls to major corporations, and they're interested. We're waiting for some to get back with us. It's the story of my life: I'm always looking for sponsors.

If you don't find a sponsor, would the tournament have to move?

I don't want to think about it, I really don't. I really believe we're going to find a new sponsor, even if we have to find two sponsors. If I have to do five sponsors, I want to keep it here. It's important. We play a huge role in this state. It's not only important to us, but I think that it's important to the world of golf that we're able to keep this tour here.

Are you a big golf fan? Do you ever play?

I knew you were going to ask me that. I can putt. I have a little putting place on my farm back in Virginia. I don't have time to practice. I'm such a perfectionist. With my violin, I used to play four and five hours a day. It's just my DNA. Unless I can do something well, I'm not going to sit here and say I can play golf. I know how to hold the club, I can putt, I can hit a ball. Every time they ask me to hit a ball in front of the camera I do it and I don't look stupid. I've taken enough lessons that I make myself look good. One day, once things level out, I'm going to really get into it.

You are a very successful businesswoman and entrepreneur. What sort of advice do you have for local businesswomen?

I have so much advice I don't know here to start. First, hire slowly, fire fast. Always watch your bottom line. Make sure you bring in people that you trust that can share your vision. Because there's too many people that will come in with another agenda in mind. You have to be very astute, and you have to really be able to use your intuition. Keep your eyes open, don't just look straight ahead. Watch everything and everyone around you to make sure that they are sharing your vision and it's not about them.

Comments
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch had won nine straight heading into Friday’s game against Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental lea...
Published: 12/16/17
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Published: 12/16/17

High school scoreboard for Dec. 15

Friday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 7, Clearwater 0Osceola 9, Bradenton Bayshore 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Plant 1Boys soccerPalm Harbor U. 0, Plant 0Lennard 4, Armwood 1
Updated: 10 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Fri., Dec. 15, midday:01 563 0000e_SRit95765Fri., Dec. 15, evening:12 287 1492e_SRit04851Fantasy 5Fri., Dec. 15...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is very little these days that can dampen the mood of Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise, whose Gators knocked off reigning national champion Stanford in Thursday’s NCAA semifinals and face Nebraska tonight for the title. Not...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 12 hours ago
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Published: 12/15/17

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Published: 12/15/17
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Published: 12/15/17