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The Billion Dollar BET: Robert Johnson and the Inside Story of Black Entertainment Television 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471423638
ISBN-10: 0471423637
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Against overwhelming odds, BET founder Robert Johnson blasted through social and economic barriers using his intelligence and charm, first establishing himself in the realm of Washington politics and later in the media business. One might think his rags-to-riches story would be incredibly uplifting. But in this unauthorized biography, Pulley (a senior editor at Forbes and well-known expert on the business of entertainment) reports that Johnson’s methods were anything but noble. Though he created the first black-owned and -operated cable company, Pulley says, Johnson had little interest in raising the quality of the programming that BET offered to the black community, despite that community’s loyalty to his channel. (In Canada, blacks even lobbied to have BET carried on their cable systems.) From the very start, Pulley argues, Johnson’s goal was to become a billionaire, period. And he realized his dream when he sold his company to Viacom in 1999. Along the way he shed friends, associates and even family members who ceased to be useful in carrying out his business plans, Pulley says, and he also refused to compensate (or even to thank) many of those who helped him in moving forward, including the man who gave him the business plan that he used to find his original investors. Pulley’s research in this volume is quite impressive; he interviewed all of Johnson’s most important BET colleagues. And though his prose occasionally leans towards the purple, overall the book is written in a clean, easy-to-follow style. His eye-opening biography will make many readers view Johnson in a new way, and may leave some hoping that there is another side to this cynical story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Still at BET Helm, Johnson Turns to Sports and Hotels" (Washington Post, May 17, 2004)

Those interested in business are not the only ones who will welcome The Billion Dollar BET (Wiley; 24.95). Robert Johnson’s rise from humble beginnings in Hickory, Miss and Freeport, Ill to bone a fide American billionaire is packed with all the elements of great stories. In addition to a healthy dose of drive and determination, there is a large helping of alleged backstabbing, extramarital affairs, corporate meltdowns and showdowns.
Regardless of how some folks feel about BET, author Brett Pulley couches Johnson’s accomplishments in the historical context of both black American history and the cable industry. Like it or not, Johnson is a trailblazer. He is also proof positive of just how far hard work and tremendous opportunity can take you.
Most surprising to some maybe Johnson’s own grandiose ideas of what BET might have become. Like many of his critics, Johnson himself envisioned a channel with original and educational programming. Economic realities, however, led him to make music videos.
Yes, this type book is a far cry from the girlfriend fare that dominates black book shel ves, but, if given a chance, it can be just as titillating. --Ronda Racha Price (Upscale, April 2004)

The rags-to-riches rise of the nation's first black billionaire is a great story no matter how you tell it. And The Billion Dollar BET (John Wiley & Sons, $24.95), by Forbes senior editor Brett Pulley, is filled with enough sex, villains, and betrayal to make it a guilty pleasure.
At the center of the drama is Bob Johnson, who built a $15,000 bank loan into a media empire. Johnson refused to cooperate for the book, but Pulley had extensive access before deciding to write. Plenty of other key players (even Johnson's former wife of 32 years) were willing to dish on everything from 4 a.m. phone calls from the boss to his extramarital affairs.
What makes Johnson's life more than fodder for an E! True Hollywood Story, however, is the intersection of race and business. Johnson constantly reminds detractors that "the 'E' in BET does not stand for enlightenment or education but entertainment." Many hoped that Johnson, the first African American with such control over TV, would take a higher road. Pulley does address the issue, but one wishes he had spent even more time on the tensions black executives face balancing financial concerns and responsibility to the race. (Fortune, March 22, 2004)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471423637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471423638
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #709,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Billion Dollar BET is a biography that will surely have you reading until the very last page. The author provides a very clear picture of the man Robert Johnson. From the details of his humble beginnings to his educational background and finally into the business world, Brett Pulley provides the recipe of success that led Mr. Johnson to his ultimate goal of being media titan. This book is a must read for all young entrepenuers as it provides several key lessons that must be mastered if one is to dedicate themselves to an emerging business.
Finally the book is done is with great respect for Robert Johnson as the author dives into all topics, he choses to note how the personal challenges affected his business performance and business relationships.
I am certainly looking forward to Mr. Pulley's next book.
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Format: Hardcover
I found The Billion Dollar BET to be both fascinating and intriguing. It was especially riveting when Brett Pulley took the readers into the boardrooms and behind the scenes where many of the private deals were being made. This book took me back to the Barbarians at the Gate where the players involved were very descriptive and the rapidily changing deals were exciting. I thought the story of Robert Johnson was a very necessary story that had to be told. The process in which Robert Johnson built his fortune was based on a very simple business premise; keep revenues up and cut costs. His sense of business savvy as well as his excellent market-timing were some of the fundemental reasons for his success. This book should be read by anyone interested in being successful in their careers and follow Robert Johnsons "Blue Print for Success".
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Format: Paperback
The fascinating rags-to-riches story of Robert L. Johnson, the U.S.'s first black billionaire, has all the makings of a great novel: personality, determination, opportunity, scandal, backstabbing and tremendous success. Against all odds, this child of a poor, black rural family became a media pioneer and a very wealthy man. A visionary, he started Black Entertainment Television (BET) with $15,000, four employees, and incredible energy and ambition. Judging by the amount of money he made, his success is clear, although biographer Brett Pulley says his track record in social responsibility is muddier. We recommend Pulley's remarkably even-handed, in-depth portrayal of this enigmatic, controversial, often hard-hearted mogul.
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Format: Hardcover
Brett Pulley pulls together one of the most in depths pieces ever written on a black businessman, not just any black businessman, but the man behind BET. Brett pulls all stops on getting the nitty gritty on BET from the first scandal to Bob Johnson's billion dollar deal with Viacom. Pulley reaches into the black community, along with the media world and close personal friends of Johnson to get the story of a lifetime. Robert L Johnson is an even-tempered businessman with his heart set on making a deal as cheap as possible. He started BET with a $ 15,000 loan and thus paving the way for many up and coming African American entertainment moguls. Those who know Johnson personally would say he put the E in BET, which stands for entertainment. According to this book, Bob pulled out of business deals at the last minute, because he didn't want to put up a bulk of money to front the cost of production or any thing else he felt that was considered unnecessary. But Johnson always stood by his word and made powerful decisions, as he felt necessary. From the day he met his $15,000 obligation he built his way to a billion dollar deal with media powerhouse Viacom and went on to buy the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA and the Charlotte Stings of the WNBA.

This book fits any American who understands what its like to have a dream and sit down and make the plans to achieve this dream to its fullest. The book itself allowed me to look at someone else go through the trial and tribulations of building an idea into a multibillion dollar situation it allows anyone with dreams to see hope.
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Format: Hardcover
I am CEO of what I hope to someday be a fortune 500 company. Its very hard to find mentors or people who can identify with the struggles of being a young entrepreneur. This book served as a form of inspiration at a time when it was truly needed. Its hard being a pioneer in an industry predominated by established Giants. Everybody has a opinion of you and you are constantly being scrutinized and held to different standards than your counterparts. Thank You Mr. Pulley for writing this book. It was informative and will help me to keep my eyes on the prize despite adversity. H. Terrell CEO Common Ground USA [...]
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My girlfriend's son was doing an assignment and I suggested he do it on Robert Johnson the first African American Billionaire. I purchased this book and read it in a day. I felt this book was very well researched and I enjoyed it. Robert Johnson was all about money and success nothing else. He did not care how he got it whether it was dirty videos or cheating artists out of money. I will give him credit his network BET gave a lot of people chances such as D.L. Hughley, Monique, Ananda Lewis to name a few. Those were some people who we may have never seen had it not been for BET. I am a fan of business and I understand we all have to make sacrifices but some of his ways I think were wrong. He cheated on his wife from the beginning, even fired her because her show Teen Summit was not where he thought it should be. He paid the comics on ComicView a one time appearance fee and then had re-runs of the episodes all the time and never paid them any residual income. He sacrificed great positive shows to show videos that are raunchy and disrespectful. When he got closer to the top he broke down more and more people. As far as making money there is no denying, Robert Johnson knows business but the question to me is at what cost? If you are willing to portray images you may not necessarily agree with, cheat on your wife, fire people who were there from the beginning of your journey, lose your family all for money and success then Robert Johnson maybe a great role model for you. I respect Robert Johnson in the fact he made lots of money and has success but with anything in life there is a cost... So What Price Are You Willing To Pay For Success????
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