Casey Johnson was born into a family of spectacular wealth, sordid squabbles and tragic incidents. The death of the 30-year-old Johnson & Johnson heiress is the latest tragedy to befall the family.
Casey’s great-great-grandfather Robert Wood Johnson founded the pharmaceutical company, along with his two brothers, in the late 1880s. The company passed from family member to family member until Robert Wood Johnson II — who was known by the intimidating nickname “The General” — took over and turned the business into a multibillion-dollar international conglomerate. The General’s son, Robert Wood Johnson III, had five children — one who died of a cocaine overdose and one who died in a motorcycle accident, both in 1975 — and was eventually forced out of the company in the mid-1960s after a falling-out with his father. One of Johnson III’s children is Robert Wood Johnson IV, Casey’s father.
Woody, as he is known, is a philanthropist and political fundraiser who purchased the New York Jets in 2000 for $635 million. In the late ’70s, he married and had three daughters, Casey, Jamie and Daisy. Wood and his wife, Sale Johnson, eventually divorced. In 2007, she remarried sportscaster and former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Ahmad Rashad.
Longtime friends with socialites like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, Casey actually turned down a role on “The Simple Life.” In 2003, Casey began a very public feud with her aunt, Elizabeth (Libet) Ross Johnson, who is Woody’s only sister. A prominent New York socialite who founded an orphanage in Cambodia, Libet married five times before the age of 40, once briefly to the singer Michael Bolton. In a nasty case of she said/ she said, Casey and Libet battled it out in The New York Post‘s Page Six as the younger Johnson accused her aunt of stealing her boyfriend, John Dee. Dee had once been married to the actress Lara Flynn Boyle. Before their spat, Casey and Libet had been close, traveling to Cambodia, where Casey wanted to adopt an orphan.
That adoption never went through, but Casey did eventually adopt a daughter from Kazakhstan in 2007 whom she named Ava-Monroe. Nicky Hilton has been said to be the child’s godmother. But because of Casey’s erratic behavior — including rumors of drug and alcohol abuse — Sale Johnson has been raising the child.
Casey’s uncle is Jamie Johnson, the young filmmaker whose documentary, “Born Rich,” appeared on HBO in 2003, inflaming his high-society friends with its seemingly unflattering portrait of their wealth and privilege. Jamie’s side of the family has seen its fair share of tawdry happenings as well.
His grandfather, John Seward Johnson I, was the General’s brother. According to an article in Vanity Fair, Seward “was coddled and abused by his mother and seemed to suffer from severe dyslexia. Of Seward it was once said, ‘He liked women, sailing, farming and the breeding of cows, in that order.’ ”
In the early ’70s, for his third marriage, Seward wed his Polish cook. More than a decade later, Seward is said to have redone his will with his wife’s help while on his deathbed, leaving her the entirety of his fortune and cutting out his children. His children filed a suit and a three-year-long, ludicrously expensive trial ensued. The children, including Jamie’s father James “Jimmy” Loring Johnson, eventually recouped some of their lost inheritance.