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Chelsea FC’s possible future owner is a billionaire sports mogul and ally of Donald Trump who was accused of racism and sexism while serving as ambassador to the UK
Woody Johnson, a scion of the Johnson & Johnson cosmetics dynasty, has reportedly already tabled a £2billion offer to buy the West London club and hopes to seal the deal before Friday’s deadline.
The 74-year-old, who owns the New York Jets, is a Chelsea fan who is thought to have a good understanding of the Premier League, having lived in London during his time as US ambassador under President Trump.
Woody Johnson – who has reportedly tabled a bid for Chelsea – with his wife, Suzanne, at the 2013 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in New York
Melania Trump, Donald Trump, and the Johnsons attend Woody’s wig-themed 60th birthday party in New York in 2007
Johnson lived in London during his time as US ambassador under President Trump, and is pictured here with Elizabeth Hurley
Johnson’s personal life has been a staple of New York’s tabloids. After divorcing former fashion model Nancy Sale Johnson, he married a woman two decades his junior, Suzanne Ircha, in 2009.
Mrs Johnson, 57, is a former equities manager and actress. The couple share two young sons, ‘Brick’, 11, and Jack, 9, and divide their time between an apartment in New York’s Trump Tower and an estate in the Hamptons.
In one colourful stunt, he rode his Harley-Davidson across the US with the actor Michael Douglas and Jann Wenner from Rolling Stone magazine.
But tragedy struck in 2010 when Casey Johnson – his daughter from his first marriage – tragically died after suffering complications from diabetes.
Johnson would become the fourth NFL owner in the English top-flight, after Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke, the Glazer family at Manchester United, and Jed York, who has a minority share in Leeds.
The New Jersey native is a long-standing donor to the Republican Party and was a vocal supporter of Trump’s campaigns.
In the Republican primaries, Johnson served as campaign treasurer to Mr Trump’s bitter rival Jeb Bush, and only switched allegiance when the campaign ran aground last May.
Johnson and Ivanka Trump arrive in Downing Street, London, on the second day of President Trump’s 2019 state visit to the UK
Johnson shakes hands with the Queen at a private audience to present his Letters of Credence at Buckingham Palace on November 08, 2017
Johnson chats to Prince William at a joint meeting of the United for Wildlife task forces in London
The two men clashed after the president-elect mocked the performance of Johnson’s New York Jets on Twitter and cited him as an example of how Mr Bush was a puppet of big money interests.
Wealthy Johnson certainly is – he is heir to an estimated inherited family fortune of $6.3bn (£5.95bn).
One of the biggest scandals of his career came in 2020 when he was accused of making racist comments about black men and ‘cringe worthy’ comments about women’s appearances.
CNN reported that Johnson Johnson questioned why black people celebrated Black History Month and asked, prior to a 2018 event, if the audience would be ‘a whole bunch of black people,’ a source said.
‘He’s said some pretty sexist, racist,’ things, an unnamed diplomat told the network, explaining what staff had told Office of Inspector General investigators who were looking into his conduct.
Johnson was also no fan of International Women’s Day, sources told CNN, describing it as a ‘feminist event’.
Johnson and the Trumps on the lawn of the US ambassador’s residence Winfield House in London on July 12, 2018
Johnson in a carriage with his wife. During his time as ambassador he was accused of making racist and sexist remarks – allegations he denied
In October 2017, he reportedly remarked to a crowd at an Estee Lauder-sponsored breast cancer event: ‘There was a prettier crowd here a few days ago with the ladies in pink and the breast cancer people.’
Johnson also started out his London tenure holding meetings in a male-only private club called White’s. The ambassador was eventually told by another diplomat in late 2018 that it wasn’t appropriate because female diplomats couldn’t join.
The ambassador denied making any offensive comments, tweeting: ‘These false claims of insensitive remarks about race and gender are totally inconsistent with my long standing record and values.’
Chelsea fans considering their club’s possible future under the American tycoon are unlikely to be reassured by his tenure at the New York Jets.
Shortly after paying $635million (£515million) for the team in 2000, he was faced with the sudden resignation of new head coach Bill Belichick, who left to join the New England Patriots and, ultimately, win six Super Bowls alongside quarterback Tom Brady.
Johnson meets Michael Douglas on the sideline at the New England Patriots vs New York Jets game on September 20, 2009
The Johnsons attend the 5th annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco
The Jets had won an AFC divisional play-off game in 1998 but would not reach that stage again until 2009, almost a decade into Johnson’s ownership.
What’s worse, the Jets have not posted a winning record since 2015, and are a pitiful 59-101 since their last playoff appearance in 2010.
The worst of those years, from 2017 to 2021, came when Johnson’s brother Christopher was in charge of the team during Woody’s four-year tenure as ambassador.
Although the financial value of the Jets has risen to $3.2 billion due to the NFL’s vast television contracts, that will be little consolation to fans, who have seen the team decline dramatically over the last decade.
In 2017, fans urged him to sell up, with banners like ‘Dear Woody, Sell the team’ displayed around the MetLife stadium.
The Jets caused a stir when they came to play a game at Wembley Stadium in 2015 and it emerged they had brought their own toilet paper to avoid the ‘thinner version used in England’.
Johnson with Camilla at the front of a procession of guests at a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in 2019
Source: Daily Mail