Johnson, Woody

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Woody Johnson
Robert Wood Johnson the IV, better known as Woody Johnson is the current owner of the New York Jets.


Background and family history

Born April 12, 1947, in New Brunswick NJ, Johnson is the latest in a line of American war profiteers, dating back to the Civil War. His ancestor, Robert Wood Johnson I, was one of three brothers who founded Johnson and Johnson, a Fortune 500 company. In 1861, he began his career as a pharmacist. When the Civil War began, there were only 87 men in the medical corps. When the war ended, there were over 11,000. The war had revolutionized medicine, and Robert Wood Johnson esquire got in on the action, inventing and selling aseptic surgical equipment. He then went on to develop and market sterile dressings. He left the company to Robert Wood Johnson II, who built it up into the corporate empire that it is today, mainly by selling specially designed duct tape that helped waterproof and seal ammunition boxes, which were used by the American armed forces fighting overseas during WWII. He served as chairman of the Small War Plants Corporation, which conveniently oversaw war contracts. Johnson & Johnson became the major supplier for combat first aid kits. Woody’s father, Robert Wood Johnson II, was born in 1920. He worked for J&J from 1941-1965. His son, Woody, was born an heir to the J & J fortune. He attended exclusive prep schools during his formative years, and attended the University of Arizona.

Buying the Jets

Leon Hess, who first bought a piece of the Jets in 1963 and had owned 100 percent of the team since 1984, died in May 1999. His will stipulated that the team be sold.

It came down to two bids, Johnson and Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan, the owner of Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers and Knicks. Johnson's bid of $635 million compared to Dolan's $612 million, the highest price for an established team with no stadium was recommended by the Hess Estate and was then unanimously approved by the NFL's eight-man finance committee, who had concerns about Dolan's ownership of MSG. Soon afterwards the NFL owners approved Johnson's take over. The price seemed remarkable for a team with a downtrodden history, and which finished with a 1-15 record as recently as 1996. The Jets staged a revival under Bill Parcells but spun into public disarray after the 1999 season when Parcells stepped down and his designated successor, Bill Belichick, cited the uncertainty over the team's ownership when he quit the next day.

The team sold for more than $100 million above what some sports finance analysts had expected. Based on the Jets' recent financial performance and the team's low-revenue lease at Giants Stadium, the analysts said the team was really worth about $250 million.

'We want to emphasize that we are totally dedicated to bringing a winning and a championship team to this area,' Johnson said in a statement. 'We understand and appreciate the difficulties inherent in that goal, but we look forward to working with Steve Gutman and Bill Parcells in developing a first-class organization, which is a cornerstone to developing a winning franchise.'

Running the Jets

Johnson came into a situation where his new toy had no head coach, so he promoted then-linebackers coach Al Groh. Groh then jumped ship at the end of the 2000 season. Groh was replaced by Herman Edwards, who did managed three playoff seasons, but was responsible along with GM Terry Bradway for a decline in talent on the team. Johnson had made it clear that he wanted to build a new stadium for the Jets on Manhattan's West Side, but these plans came to naught. When reports of bad behaviour at half times during Jets games surfaced at the end of 2007, Johnson's solution to the problem of a few trouble makers was to ban alcohol sales in the entire stadium.


Price hikes

In January 1999, the face value of a Jets vs. Jaguars playoff ticket was $61.25. Anyone caught selling a ticket in the parking lot for a price that exceeded twenty percent of face value would have been arrested. The ticket invoice for the 2007 season had tickets listed at $80.00. Even discounting for inflation, Johnson has annually beat the percentage markup that lands ticket scalpers in jail by 2.3%. Total inflation from January 1999, to present is 23.20%. By way of comparison, Jets ticket prices since Johnson purchased the team have increased over that same period of time by 45 %. Johnson has also yet to rule out PSL's in the New Meadowlands Stadium.

Personnel decisions

What has this team accomplished that Woody feels so entitled to mercilessly gouge the loyal fans of this franchise? His track record since purchasing the team in November of 2000, has been one of perpetual ineptness and indecisiveness. He hired inexperienced GM Terry Bradway on the advice of Bill Parcells. After five seasons of mismanagement, Bradway was demoted and is currently a scout for the Jets. Parcells, currently the Miami Dolphins Head of Football Operations, recently hired Jeff Ireland to be GM of the Dolphins. One could easily surmise that Terry Bradway not being a potential candidate for the job, suggests that Parcells made a mistake in his recommendation back in 2001. Johnson has also been accused of allowing former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to influence his decision to hire Herman Edwards, a man with no previous co-ordinator experience.

Stadium fiasco

Johnson's attempts to build a new stadium in New York City were seen as feeble by many. After the original West Side Stadium plan fell through, a half-hearted attempt to build one in Queens was considered, but Johnson quickly jumped in bed with the Giants, trying to pass it off as a better deal, and how the team would now be co-owners. Jay Cross, the man in charge of the stadium, is still president of the Jets. Is this how failure is rewarded?


Johnson is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a major fundraiser for George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. In 2000, Johnson was the fourth largest contributor to Bush's presidential campaign, giving $126,332. He has started a research foundation, the Alliance for Lupus Research. He was divorced in 2002 and has three daughters from that marriage, Casey, Daisy, and Jaime. Johnson is engaged to former investment banker Suzanne Ircha. They have one son, Robert Wood Johnson V, born March 24, 2006. Johnson is also the Chairman and Chief Exective of the Johnson Company, Inc. He also served on the NFL Commissioner search committee in which 185 candidates to succeed Paul Tagliabue was narrowed down to the final choice of Roger Goodell. Johnson has homes in Bedminster Township, New Jersey and on Columbus Circle in Manhattan and frequently arrives to Jets home games at The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey via helicopter.

Woody has also been cited in a Senate report for being a tax cheat. He pleaded ignorance.

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