Our Team

Robert L. Johnson


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


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.

Nigel M. Howard

Managing Director

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

Managing Director

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.

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.

Jeron Davis


Mr. Davis joined RLJ Equity Partners in 2018. Prior to RLJ Equity Partners, Mr. Davis was an Associate at Pomona Capital focusing on evaluating, analyzing and pricing secondary, primary and co-investment opportunities. Prior to Pomona, Mr. Davis was an Investment Banking Analyst in the Financial Sponsors Group at Citi. Mr. Davis received his B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Ernita F. Thomas

Chief Compliance Officer

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.