By Mary Thurwachter
Officials at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Manalapan’s five-star destination, say Robert Johnson’s experience there — the one where he said he was humiliated when he tried to check in — was “just a misunderstanding.”
But when it happened, Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, didn’t see it like that.
Days after the encounter, Eau’s brass and Johnson worked out their differences over a cordial lunch at the resort. Hotel management apologized and Johnson, the world’s first black billionaire, said he plans a return visit.
Johnson, owner and founder of the asset management firm RLJ companies, sits on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Here’s what happened on Aug. 24:
Johnson told ABC News and other media outlets that he felt humiliated when an employee at the front desk demanded that he remove his prescription sunglasses to allow visual verification of his identity. Johnson had already provided his Florida driver’s license, passport and a credit card.
Johnson said it was a “silly rule” and that it “had overtones of racial profiling.”
Instead of proceeding to a guest room, Johnson left the hotel after talking with police, whom he asked to be called.
Several days later, Johnson was invited for lunch at the resort, according to a joint statement issued Sept. 11 by Eau Palm Beach and Johnson.
“We let Mr. Johnson know that we sincerely apologize that he left our property feeling offended and unwelcome,” according to the statement on behalf of the resort.
“The safety and security of our guests is top priority. We learned a valuable lesson in the delivery of our check-in policy and will ensure this scenario does not reoccur.”
Johnson, in his statement, said that the management team at Eau personally apologized and acknowledged his concerns with the check-in policy.
“I appreciate their willingness to re-evaluate this practice moving forward,” he said. “I’m glad they understand my perspective on this matter. I look forward to returning and enjoying the resort’s amenities in the future.”