New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to be US ambassador to UK


NFL team owner initially backed Jeb Bush but emerged as major fundraiser in last months of Donald Trump campaign

Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets football team and scion of the Johnson & Johnson industrial dynasty, has been nominated as the next US ambassador to London.

The 69-year-old businessman and philanthropist is a longstanding Republican donor, but came relatively late to supporting Donald Trumps election campaign. He served as finance chairman on Jeb Bushs campaign to win the Republican nomination until it collapsed in February last year. Johnson only endorsed Trump in May, but emerged as a major fundraiser in the final months of the campaign and served on his inaugural committee.

In 2006, Johnson was called to testify before the senate on the use of tax avoidance schemes by his investment firm. He claimed he had relied on professional advisers who told him the use of tax havens was lawful and he later settled with the Internal Revenue Service, paying all the outstanding taxes and interest.

Once confirmed by the senate, Johnson will be the sixth businessman in a row to be appointed as ambassador to the UK, which has emerged as a top reward for wealthy campaign donors in the US political system.

Johnsons father was president of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical and medical equipment company, but the nominee himself has run a private investment firm, the Johnson Company Inc, since it was set up in 1978. He spends much of his time raising funds for charities combating lupus and juvenile diabetes, both of which have affected his family. His daughter Casey was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of eight and died of diabetic ketoacidosis in 2010, aged 30.

Johnson is best known in the US as the owner of the New York Jets and most of his Twitter feed is dominated by images of the teams exploits. They have been perennial underachievers in the National Football League, but it turned out to be a good investment for Johnson. He bought the team in 2000 for $635m and it is now valued by Forbes at three times that amount.

Johnson has two surviving children from his first marriage, and two sons from his second marriage, in 2009, to Suzanne Ircha, a financial equities manager.

He will not be the first American football team owner to be given an ambassadorship. The owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney, was ambassador to Ireland from 2009-12.

The Jets raised eyebrows on a visit to the UK for a game at Wembley stadium in 2015, due to their decision to bring their own private chef and all their own toilet paper to avoid the thinner version used in England.

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