- Trump mentioned Woody Johnson as his ambassador to the United Kingdom during speech at luncheon in Washington D.C.
- Johnson owns the New York Jets NFL team and is a long-time friend of the Trump family although he first supported Jeb Bush for Republican candidacy
- Scion of the Johnson & Johnson family is twice-married and has four surviving children; his eldest daughter, socialite Casey, died in 2010
Woody Johnson, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets and a scion of the Johnson & Johnson cosmetics family, will be Donald Trump’s ambassador to London, the president-elect has revealed.
The announcement was made as a passing remark as the president-elect hailed his new cabinet and senior staff at a luncheon at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C.
Listing senior guests present he turned to Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, and described him as ‘sitting next to the ambassador Woody Johnson, going to Saint James’.
Trump said: ‘Congratulations, Woody.’
Mr Johnson, a philanthropist and heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical empire, is a friend of Mr Trump but served as campaign treasurer to his bitter rival Jeb Bush in the Republican primaries.
After the Bush campaign ran aground, Mr Johnson, 69, eventually switched his allegiance to Mr Trump last May.
The two men had clashed after the president-elect mocked the performance of Mr Johnson’s New York Jets on Twitter and cited him as an example of how Mr Bush was a puppet of big money interests.
Mr Johnson joins a Trump team heaving with billionaires and multimillionaires.
The president-elect revealed the appointment to the role – officially known as Ambassador to the Court of St James – at a lunch in Washington where he was listing the important guests present.
Turning to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, he told him he was ‘sitting next to the ambassador Woody Johnson, going to St James … congratulations, Woody.’
Mr Johnson is likely to become a key figure in any joint initiative by Downing Street and Trump’s White House to strengthen post-Brexit ties and possibly agree a new US-UK trade deal.
Most famous in the US as owner of the New York Jets, he has stuck with the major league team despite a rocky performance record – after paying $635million (£515million) for them in 2000.
They are now valued at three times that sum.
The Jets caused a stir when they came to play a game at Wembley Stadium in 2015 and it emerged they had brought their own toilet paper to avoid the ‘thinner version used in England’.
Mr Johnson has given generously to charity, especially medical ones battling lupus and juvenile diabetes – which have affected members of his family.
He is twice married with four surviving children, but his daughter Casey was diagnosed with diabetes when she was eight and died in 2010 aged 30 from serious complications of the condition.
The new ambassador will move into the imposing Winfield House, in Regent’s Park, replacing Matthew Barzun.
Johnson and his second wife Suzanne are social friends of the Trumps.
As ambassador to the UK he will be present for Brexit, building a new relationship between the two countries as Britain prepares to depart from the European Union.
The British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has already been to Trump Tower to meet the president-elect, and Trump tweeted after their meeting: ‘I look very much forward to meeting Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington in the Spring. Britain, a longtime U.S. ally, is very special!’
Trump is expected to travel to London and appears likely to have a full state visit, meaning he will be formally welcomed by the Queen and honored with his wife Melania through a banquet at Buckingham Palace.
Unusually for a new administration, the Trump transition team has demanded that all Obama’s ambassador appointees leave their posts immediately on Friday.
The current ambassador is technically Matthew Barzun, although he has already left Winfield House, the ambassador’s prestigious residence in Regent’s Park, London.
Until Johnson is confirmed by the Senate, his duties will be carried out by the charge d’affaires, Lewis Lukens, a State Department professional official who has also held diplomatic posts abroad.
Ambassador to the Court of St James’s is the official description of foreign ambassadors in London.
One of the Johnson’s first duties will be to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II at an ancient and ritual-filled ceremony.
The appointment has not been formally announced by the Trump transition ream .
The billionaire businessman and philanthropist from the Johnson & Johnson family has known Trump for years.
Johnson originally backed Trump rival Jeb Bush in the GOP primary and was chairman of his campaign finance committee but endorsed Trump in May.
The 69-year-old is twice married and has four surviving children.
His eldest daughter, socialite Casey Johnson, died in 2010, due to a diabetes-related condition.