Our Team

Robert L. Johnson

Chairman

Robert L. Johnson is the Founder and Chairman of The RLJ Companies, an innovative business network that owns or holds interests in a diverse portfolio of companies including RLJ Equity Partners. Prior to forming The RLJ Companies, Mr. Johnson was Founder and Chairman of Black Entertainment Television (BET), the nation’s first and leading television network providing quality entertainment, music, news, sports and public affairs programming for the African American audience. Under Mr. Johnson’s leadership, BET became the first African American owned company publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2001, Mr. Johnson sold BET to Viacom for approximately $3 billion and remained the Chief Executive Officer through 2006. In July 2007, Mr. Johnson was named by USA Today as one of the 25 most influential business leaders of the past 25 years.

 

Mr. Johnson serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Business Council, KB Home, Strayer Education, Think Finance, Inc., and Lowe’s Companies.

 

Mr. Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Rufus H. Rivers

Managing Partner

Mr. Rivers joined RLJ Equity Partners from The Carlyle Group, where he was a Managing Director and Co-Founder of Carlyle Mezzanine Partners, L.P., a $436 million investment fund. Prior to founding Carlyle Mezzanine Partners, Mr. Rivers was a Senior Vice President and Principal at TCW/Crescent Mezzanine, LLC, an investment firm with $4 billion of assets under management. Prior to TCW/Crescent Mezzanine, Mr. Rivers served as the Group Credit/Investment Officer of Heller Financial, Inc. Mr. Rivers received his B.A. from Morehouse College and his M.B.A. from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

Jerry L. Johnson

Managing Director

Mr. Johnson joined RLJ Equity Partners from American Capital, a publicly traded alternative asset management company with more than $20 billion of assets under management. Prior to joining American Capital, Mr. Johnson was a Vice President in the Financial Sponsors and Private Equity Group at Bank of America. He also served as a White House Fellow and Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Johnson began his career with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and prior to that, he was with McKinsey & Company. Mr. Johnson received his B.S. from the University of Tennessee and his M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

W. Kelvin Walker

Managing Director

Mr. Walker joined RLJ Equity Partners in 2015. Prior to RLJ, Mr. Walker served as the Managing Partner of 21st Century Group, a lower middle market private equity firm with $166 million of assets under management, where he was responsible for originating, structuring, executing, and monitoring the firm's investments. Prior to joining 21st Century Group, Mr. Walker served for six years as a Senior Vice President of Mesirow Financial and its predecessor firm, Pryor, McClendon, Counts & Co. Prior to Mesirow Financial, Mr. Walker was a Vice President at Bank of America. Mr. Walker received a B.A. from Morehouse College and an M.B.A. from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Nigel M. Howard

Principal

Mr. Howard joined RLJ Equity Partners from TA Associates, a growth-oriented private equity firm with approximately $12 billion of assets under management. Prior to joining TA, Mr. Howard was an Associate at JP Morgan Partners and Quetzal/JP Morgan Partners, as well as a Summer Associate at Goldman Sachs’ Principal Investment Area in New York. Mr. Howard also worked at Salomon Smith Barney as a Financial Analyst in the Mergers and Acquisitions group. Mr. Howard received a B.B.A. from Howard University and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

T. Otey Smith

Principal

Mr. Smith joined RLJ Equity Partners in 2006. Prior to RLJ Equity Partners, Mr. Smith was a Senior Associate and founding member at Reliant Equity Investors, a lower middle market private equity firm with $120 million of assets under management. Prior to Reliant, Mr. Smith was an Analyst in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Smith received his B.A. from Morehouse College and his M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

Kevin T. Wong

Vice President

Mr. Wong joined RLJ Equity Partners in 2015. Prior to RLJ, Mr. Wong was a Senior Associate at 21st Century Group, a lower middle market private equity firm with $166 million of assets under management. Prior to 21st Century Group, Mr. Wong was an Associate in the Mergers & Acquisitions and Financial Sponsors Groups at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and an Consultant at Accenture. Mr. Wong received his BBA and MS from George Washington University and his MBA from Goizueta Business School at Emory University.

Jack Isaacs

Director of Business Development

Mr. Isaacs joined RLJ Equity Partners from Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors in the firm's growth private equity group with $615 million of assets under management.  Prior to joining Kayne Anderson, Mr. Isaacs served as Corporate Counsel at Macrovision Corporation.  With a background in private practice as a corporate and securities lawyer, Mr. Isaacs previously worked at Foley & Lardner, LLP.  Mr. Isaacs earned a B.A. in International Relations from the College of William and Mary, a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, an LL.M. in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University Law Center, and an M.B.A. in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is a member of the Bar Associations of California, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

James Moss

Senior Associate

Mr. Moss joined RLJ Equity Partners from the Mergers and Acquisitions Group at BMO Capital Markets in Chicago and New York, where he executed M&A and other corporate advisory transactions for clients across a variety of industry sectors.  Mr. Moss received his B.A. from Morehouse College.

Kayin Barclay

Associate

Mr. Barclay joined RLJ Equity Partners from the Investment Banking Division of Barclays in New York, where he executed financings and M&A transactions for companies within the Financial Institutions Group. Prior to Barclays, Mr. Barclay worked as a business analyst in the Atlanta office of McKinsey & Company. Mr. Barclay holds a B.A. in Economics from Morehouse College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Ernita F. Thomas

Senior Vice President and Controller

Mrs. Thomas is the Vice President and Controller of the RLJ Companies. Prior to joining the RLJ Companies, Mrs. Thomas was Assistant Controller at Freddie Mac, providing reporting and credit analysis related to securitization and mortgage guarantees. Prior to Freddie Mac, Mrs. Thomas was an Associate Vice President at The Carlyle Group, where she was responsible for corporate financial and managerial accounting functions, budgeting and forecasting, and corporate compliance; and served in a variety of roles for more than 10 years, including Manager of Accounting and Assistant Controller. Mrs. Thomas received her B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Jesse M. Burwell

Chief Financial Officer

Mr. Burwell is the Chief Financial Officer of RLJ Equity Partners. Prior to RLJ, Mr. Burwell was a Senior Accountant at The Carlyle Group. Prior to The Carlyle Group, Mr. Burwell held positions as an Analyst in the Loan Syndications and Distressed Debt Group at Wachovia Securities and as a Senior Auditor at Deloitte & Touche. Mr. Burwell received his B.S. from North Carolina A&T State University.

Steve Laughery

Assistant Vice President of Business Development

Mr. Laughery joined RLJ after 14 years in customer service and business development with Landry’s restaurant group and Clear Channel Communications.  He has an A.A. in Business from Montgomery College and is currently pursuing a B.S. in Business Management from The University of Maryland University College.