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6 African-American Celebrities Putting Their Mark On CRE

There are some African-American celebs who may be known for their prowess in a variety of fields, ranging from sports to entertainment, but many of them have also been making strides in commercial real estate.

Here are a few playing by their own rules when it comes to CRE.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson greets service members on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

Sports legend Magic Johnson was a point guard for the LA Lakers for 13 seasons and won five NBA Championships with the Lakers.

He was also an Olympic Gold Medalist with the 1992 "Dream Team," and a 12-time All-Star and three-time MVP.

Since his retirement, Johnson has been winning big of late in CRE. He focuses on investing, developing and redeveloping urban communities.

Johnson joined forces with Starbucks, forming a partnership called Urban Coffee Opportunities in which he helped bring its famous coffee to major cities, including LA, Detroit, Washington, DC, and New York City.

While that partnership ended seven years ago, Johnson has also made investments in properties, including Miami's Fontainebleau and Brooklyn's One Hanson Place through his Canyon-Johnson Fund.

Johnson and his partner in the fund, Bobby Turner, raised nearly $2B when the fund was launched 16 years ago.

Sheila Johnson

BET co-founder Sheila Johnson at a Bisnow event

Sheila Johnson co-founded Black Entertainment Television, or BET, with her now ex-husband, Robert Johnson. She is also the founder of Salamander Hotels and Resorts.

She started the hospitality company 12 years ago.

It includes The Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, Reunion Resort in Reunion, Florida, and The Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, a 900-acre, 72-hole PGA tour golf course in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith

Three-time Super Bowl champion Emmitt Smith is a football legend.

He is the only running back to win the NFL MVP award, the rushing crown and the Super Bowl MVP award in the same year.

After working with The Staubach Co., a real estate advisory firm launched by former Dallas Cowboy Roger Staubach, Smith ventured out on his own four years ago with E Smith Realty Partners.

His firm reps national clients, and he has established a commercial and civil construction firm in Dallas, Emmitt Smith Construction, and a real estate development and asset management firm, ESmith Legacy.

He and his wife also have a nonprofit, Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities.

Robert L. Johnson

Robert Johnson with former President George Bush

BET co-founder Robert L. Johnson is owner of Bethesda's RLJ Cos. after selling BET to Viacom 16 years ago.

The firm has major interests in private equity, financial services and sports.

His RLJ Lodging Trust has in its portfolio 122 properties with around 20,100 rooms in 21 states and Washington, DC. The firm became publicly traded six years ago.

Johnson also bought the Charlotte Bobcats 15 years ago. He sold a majority stake in the team to Michael Jordan seven years ago.


Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z.

Shawn Carter, the rapper better known as Jay-Z, is also a successful businessman.

Jay-Z, who is married to Beyoncé, co-owns the 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar that opened 14 years ago in Manhattan.

Locations that opened later include ones in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Las Vegas, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The Atlantic City and Las Vegas locations have since closed.

He formerly held a stake in Brooklyn's Barclays Center and the NBA franchise Brooklyn Nets, which he later sold for $1.5M.

Mo Vaughn

Omni New York owns Mountain Crest in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Former Major League Baseball player Mo Vaughn took a swing at CRE after his career ended.

Vaughn, who won the American League MVP award with the Boston Red Sox, is a managing director of Omni New York, which is based in New York City.

The company buys and rehabs housing to turn it into affordable housing.

Omni New York owns more than 50 properties, including Brookhaven Apartments in the Bronx, Park Lake Apartments and Mill River Senior Residences in Nassau County, New York, Parkside Apartments in Gillette, Wyoming, Harborview Apartments in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Mountain Crest in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

The firm has more than 1,000 units undergoing a rehab.