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Who is Woody Johnson, Trump's pick as U.K. ambassador?

The co-chairs of the Super Bowl host committee -- Woody Johnson and Jonathan Tisch -- talk about bringing the big game to the New York-New Jersey area, and what it means for the region
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Unlike many of the larger-than-life characters who populate the world of professional sports, New York Jets owner Robert "Woody" Johnson IV avoids the media spotlight. That will be harder to do if the Senate confirms him as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, a post President Donald Trump nominated him for this week. 

The 70-year-old billionaire, who has been active in Republican politics for years, will face many challenges in his new job, including getting a trade deal with the U.K. done, which President Trump has called a priority. British Prime Minister Theresa May also faces pressure to cancel a state visit from the president following his criticism of London's mayor in the hours after the June 3 terror attack. 

According to the American Foreign Service Association, to date the Trump Administration has named 15 ambassadors; of that number, 12 are political supporters of the president, and three are career foreign service officers. 

One reason why deep-pocketed donors are often given plumb assignments in London, Rome and Paris is that the State Department's budget doesn't adequately fund the facilities and the gatherings they are expected to host. And Johnson certainly fits the bill. According to Forbes, his family fortune tops $6 billion.

Here are five things to know about Johnson.

He comes from money. Johnson is the great-grandson of one the founders of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), who also was named Robert Wood Johnson, though he has no role in the company's day-to-day management. When he was 18 in 1965, his father Robert Wood Johnson III was fired by his grandfather Robert Wood Johnson II. Within five years, both men were dead. Woody Johnson has also been active in the management of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

He's not exactly beloved by Jets fans. In 2001, Johnson bought the New York Jets for $635 million, outbidding fellow tycoon James Dolan for the once-storied NFL franchise that had fallen on hard times. The team hasn't fared much better in the years under his ownership, although Forbes now pegs the team's value at $2.75 billion. Johnson's effort to build a new stadium on the west side of Manhattan failed a few years ago following political opposition. According to the Jets, Johnson's brother Christopher will take over management of the team. "The reactions I've been observing from fans has mostly been they are OK with him leaving," said Sean Deegan, founder and publisher of, in an email to "He's owned the team for 17 years without a championship, so most fans are far from enamored with Woody Johnson. Maybe his brother can do better. I haven't seen anyone sad about this."

In this Jan. 5, 2017, file photo, New York Jets NFL football owner Woody Johnson speaks at the team's training facility, in Florham Park, N.J.  Mel Evans / AP

He's not afraid to show his quirky side. According to a 2010 New York magazine story, he likes to travel around New York on a scooter.  He also once went on a cross-country motorcycle trip with Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner and actor Michael Douglas wearing a helmet with fake black hair streaming out the back.

He's been an enthusiastic backer of Republicans for years. Especially Mr. Trump -- Johnson contributed $100,000 to the president's Victory Fund and hosted a fundraiser at his East Hampton estate -- one of at least six fundraisers that he co-hosted.

He's not the first NFL owner to land an ambassadorship. If confirmed, Johnson would be the second NFL owner to serve as a U.S. ambassador. Late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney served as the government's representative in Ireland from 2009 to 2012.

-- Ellen Uchimiya in Washington contributed to this report

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