The RLJ Companies, LLC, founded by Robert L. Johnson, is an innovative business network that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies. Within The RLJ Companies portfolio, Johnson owns or holds interests in businesses operating in hotel real estate, private equity, 401k fintech services, automobile dealerships, content streaming, gaming and sports betting.  The RLJ Companies is headquartered in Bethesda, MD, with affiliate operations in Charlotte, NC; Little Rock, AR; and San Juan, PR.

RLJ Management

Robert L. Johnson

Founder & Chairman

  • Founder and Chairman of The RLJ Companies, LLC, an innovative business network that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies
  • Named by USA Today one of the 25 Most Influential Business Leaders of the Past 25 Years
  • Founder and Former Chairman of Black Entertainment Television
  • Number 2 on Black Enterprise’s list of “Titans: The 40 Most Powerful African Americans in Business” 40th Anniversary Issue
  • Frequent CNBC Contributor

Robert L. Johnson is the Founder and Chairman of The RLJ Companies, LLC, an innovative business network, and owns or holds interests in businesses operating in hotel real estate, private equity, 401k fintech services, automobile dealerships, content streaming, gaming and sports betting.

Prior to forming The RLJ Companies, Mr. Johnson was founder and chairman of Black Entertainment Television (BET), the nation’s first Black-owned cable television network.

Johnson continues to attract and manage capital and create value for investors, and in 2012, announced the successful creation of RLJ Entertainment, Inc., a premium digital channel company serving distinct audiences primarily through its popular streaming services, Acorn TV (British TV) and UMC (Urban Movie Channel). RLJ Entertainment, Inc. marks the third time Johnson has successfully taken a company public. In 1991 Johnson took BET public, making the network the first African American company to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. RLJ Lodging Trust, a hotel real estate investment trust (REIT), went public in 2011.

In 2001, Johnson sold BET to Viacom for approximately $3 billion. In July 2007, Johnson was named, by USA Today, one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Leaders of the Past 25 Years.”

Two of Johnson’s holding companies are ranked among the top Black-owned companies in the country on the Black Enterprise 100s list: RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive Holdings, LLC and RLJ Equity Partners, LLC.

Currently, Mr. Johnson serves on the following boards: RLJ Lodging Trust; KB Home; Discovery, Inc.; Elevate Credit, Inc.; G-III Apparel Group, Ltd.; The Business Council; and Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Mr. Johnson holds a Master’s degree in international affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies from the University of Illinois.

H. Van Sinclair

President, CEO & General Counsel

H. Van Sinclair is the President, Chief Executive Officer, and General Counsel of
The RLJ Companies, LLC, a holding company founded by Robert L. Johnson that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies that includes real estate, private equity, 401k fintech services, automobile dealerships, content streaming, gaming and sports betting.

As President, Mr. Sinclair is responsible for the strategic direction of The RLJ Companies, including overall portfolio
management, as well as day to day, operational oversight for the highly diversified businesses.

Among other things, Mr. Sinclair managed the acquisition, development and expansion by Robert L. Johnson of the
NBA franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats and the Charlotte Arena Operations, LLC.

Mr. Sinclair also served as the Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs for the RLJ Urban Lodging Funds, with $5 Billion of assets under management, which focused on limited and focused service hotels in the United States and for RLJ Development, which is the RLJ Companies’ hotel and hospitality company, with hotel properties in the United States and Mexico. In the spring 2011, RLJ Urban Lodging Funds launched a successful Initial Public Offering and is now publicly traded under the name RLJ Lodging Trust.

Mr. Sinclair, a practicing attorney, spent 28 years with the Washington, D.C. and New York law firm of Arent Fox, PLLC, The RLJ Companies’ primary outside counsel, where he provided counsel to a wide variety of business entities and individuals, in the media, technology, banking, real estate, and construction industries. Mr. Sinclair remains Of Counsel to Arent Fox.

Prior to joining The RLJ Companies, Mr. Sinclair, as counsel represented Robert L. Johnson and Black Entertainment Television (BET) for many years, culminating in the sale of BET to Viacom Inc. in 2001. The RLJ Companies was formed soon thereafter.

Mr. Sinclair currently serves on the following boards: ERC Holdings, Inc.; RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive Holdings, LLC; RLJ Entertainment, Inc.; and Innovate/Protect, Inc.

Ernita F. Thomas

Executive Vice President of Finance

Ernita Thomas serves as the Executive Vice President of Finance of The RLJ Companies, LLC, a holding company founded by Robert L. Johnson that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies that includes real estate, private equity, 401k fintech services, automobile dealerships, content streaming, gaming and sports betting.

As Executive Vice President of Finance, Ms. Thomas is responsible for overseeing the finance function of the highly
diversified company, including financial and management accounting, regulatory reporting, budgeting, planning and
forecasting.

Previously, Ms. Thomas was an Assistant Controller at Freddie Mac, where she provided reporting and credit analysis related to securitizations and mortgage guarantees.

Before working at Freddie Mac, Ms. Thomas was with The Carlyle Group for ten years in a variety of roles, including Manager of Accounting, Assistant Controller and Associate Vice President. Ms. Thomas was responsible for corporate financial and managerial accounting functions, budgeting and forecasting, and corporate compliance.

Ms. Thomas began her career as a staff accountant at the Rushmore Funds where she was responsible for the preparation of semiannual and annual
reports for all funds.

Ms. Thomas graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1991 with a B.S. in accounting, and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Michelle R. Curtis

Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs

Michelle R. Curtis serves as Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at The RLJ Companies, LLC, a holding company founded by Robert L. Johnson that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies that includes real estate, private equity, 401k fintech services, automobile dealerships, content streaming, gaming and sports betting.

As Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Ms. Curtis is responsible for ensuring efficient and effective administrative operational strategy, and policy compliance, with coordination and oversight of the company’s staff.

Ms. Curtis has worked with Robert L. Johnson for more than three decades. Prior to serving as Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Ms. Curtis served as Executive Director of The RLJ Companies and Special Assistant to the Chairman, responsible for overseeing the organization’s administration and implementing the policies and directives of the Chairman.

Before the founding of The RLJ Companies, Ms. Curtis served as Executive Assistant to Mr. Johnson in his capacity as Founder and Chairman of Black Entertainment Television, where she was responsible for all logistical and administrative operations for Mr. Johnson and the Office of the Chairman. Prior to that, Ms. Curtis was the Executive Director of District Cablevision, Inc., with responsibility for oversight and administration of the new District of Columbia cable franchise.

Prior to beginning her career with Robert L. Johnson, Ms. Curtis worked at The National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees as the Administrative Assistant to the National Editor.

Samira Baraki

Executive Director of Corporate Affairs

Samira Baraki serves as Executive Director of Corporate Affairs at The RLJ Companies, LLC, a holding company founded by Robert L. Johnson that provides strategic investments in a diverse portfolio of companies that includes real estate, private equity, 401k fintech services, automobile dealerships, content streaming, gaming and sports betting.

As Executive Director of Corporate Affairs, Ms.Baraki is responsible for coordinating with the Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Ms. Curtis, in the interaction between the office of the Chairman and the operational companies of the RLJ Companies. Her duties include managing corporate communications, social media relations, and brand initiatives.

Ms. Baraki holds an MBA from Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University and received her B.S. from Loyola University Chicago. Prior to the RLJ Companies, Ms. Baraki worked as an Executive Assistant to both the Vice President of International Airline Operations and the Vice President of Domestic Airline Operations at United Airlines.