Billionaire sports tycoon confirmed as US ambassador to Britain
Robert “Woody” Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company fortune and owner of the New York Jets American football team, was approved as the choice for the Court of St James’s after being nominated for the role in January.
The move was one of the last acts of the US Senate before its summer recess. In an unusual move, the legislature voted unanimously to adjourn instead of shutting down in an apparent attempt by senators to block the president from pushing through new appointments.
With the Senate now officially locked in nine “pro forma” sessions over the next month, Mr Trump cannot bypass a confirmation hearing for any new staff for his administration. The White House has been kept busy by a string of recent appointments and resignations in recent weeks and rumours have been swirling that Mr Trump is on the verge of sacking his attorney-general, Jeff Sessions.
Although Mr Johnson, 70, was confirmed on Thursday night, it is not known when he will take up the role. He is expected to hand over his positions as chairman and chief executive of the Jets to his brother, Christopher, before moving to London.
The Trump administration has faced criticism for being slow to fill senior roles in embassies around the world. Last night’s confirmations included George Edward Glass, a real estate magnate, as ambassador to Portugal; Lewis Eisenberg, a financier, for Italy and San Marino; and the former Republican senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas for Nato.
Profile: Woody Johnson
One of the heirs to the fortune of the Johnson & Johnson consumer healthcare company, Robert “Woody” Johnson is thought to be the 462nd richest man in the world with an estimated wealth of $4.2 billion (£3.2 billion).
He has been a regular donor to the Republican Party and helped fund President Trump’s campaign before pouring $1 million dollars into his inaugural committee. Their eldest daughters were contemporaries at Chapin School in New York
Although he is best known for purchasing the New York Jets for $635 million in 2000, he is also the chairman of the Johnson Company Inc, a private investment firm.
In August 2006 he appeared before a Senate panel about his participation in a tax shelter. He said he had been advised that the arrangement was “consistent with the tax code” but later he agreed to pay “100 per cent of the tax due plus interest”.
Mr Johnson, who has little diplomatic experience, faces the daunting task of managing a potential state visit to Britain for the president which has been delayed until next year amid fears that Mr Trump wanted assurances against protests.
He is not a complete stranger to British politics, having been invited to No 10 by George Osborne in 2015 to discuss expanding American football to London.