Owner, New York Jets
With a new stadium at the Meadowlands inching closer to completion, a state-of-the-art training facility in Florham Park recently finished, and a pivotal game with conference rival New England looming the next day, Robert Wood Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets, was talking insouciantly about trees.
Well, one tree, actually. It’s the one left standing on the green expanse of four practice fields spread out beneath his sizable office window.
“It’s a symbol of what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Johnson states. The tree is a hearty oak thrusting upward in a “V” shape. The “V,” it’s safe to assume, stands for victory—which is something the new-look Jets have been experiencing with surprising frequency this season. Perhaps the team’s winning ways explain Johnson’s attitude, a mix of excitement, focus, confidence, and placidity.
All of this is part of a grand design. “It’s a three-step plan,” he says. “The first step is the practice field, the second step is the stadium, and the third step is the team.” Moving the team lock, stock, and barrel from its previous training grounds on Long Island to Florham Park was logistically pragmatic. “Basically we drew circles around the Meadowlands complex and Newark Liberty International Airport. There were about forty sites to choose from, but we narrowed it down to five,” he says. “This site blew everything else away.”
A native of New Brunswick and self-proclaimed B-level football player as a youth, Johnson has made the New York Jets enticingly New Jerseyan. An heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and a noted philanthropist, Johnson jumped at the chance to buy the team in 2000 from the estate of Leon Hess, eventually winning an ownership auction conducted by Goldman Sachs. “Every new owner experiences the enormity of the effort of managing all aspects of a franchise,” he says. “I’m very impressed by the nonstop energy and dedication and work ethic of everyone involved with the organization.”
Johnson, 61, is proud to have brought the team to New Jersey and is ecstatic about the welcome his players and personnel have received from the communities around Florham Park. The move will create jobs and is expected to generate approximately $10 million annually in tax revenue. Many of the players already have bought or rented homes in the area—a much-needed boost for the local real estate market.
What’s more, local businesses stand to benefit substantially from the influx of high-earning players, who might be a little less affected by the current economic turmoil than the rest of us. Another key shot in the arm is the team’s charitable organization, the Jets Foundation, which is prepared to become an active participant in numerous community-building endeavors. “Part of our team philosophy is that everyone is expected to give back to the community,” Johnson declares.
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Clement Price and Mary Sue Sweeney Price
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