US & Canada

Trump hints New York Jets owner Woody Johnson will be US envoy to UK

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson Image copyright AFP
Image caption Woody Johnson belongs to the Johnson & Johnson family

President-elect Donald Trump appears to have picked NFL tycoon Woody Johnson to be US ambassador to the UK.

Mr Trump introduced the New York Jets owner as "the ambassador Woody Johnson, going to Saint James", during a luncheon in Washington.

The 69-year-old billionaire philanthropist and heir of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical giant has known Mr Trump for many years.

But he originally backed Trump rival Jeb Bush in the Republican primary.

"Congratulations, Woody," said Mr Trump in the presidential ballroom of Trump International hotel in Washington DC, on the eve of his swearing in as the 45th US president.

The plum diplomatic appointment - known formally as Ambassador of the United States to the Court of St James - has not yet been formally announced.

Kim Darroch, the UK ambassador to the US, was among the first to tweet his congratulations to Mr Johnson.

"Surely you can replicate the success of @NYJets in London 2015," Sir Kim added.

The people around Donald Trump

Who is Woody? - Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

Although he's probably best known as the owner of the long-suffering New York Jets American football team, Johnson is quite familiar in conservative circles, having contributed millions of dollars to Republican causes.

Like many big-money donors, Johnson was an early supporter of Governor Jeb Bush's presidential campaign - and was once cited by Donald Trump as an example of how the former Florida governor was in the thrall of big-money interests. Mr Trump even fired off a tweet mocking the Jets' lack of postseason success.

The heir to the pharmaceutical and consumer products company Johnson & Johnson threw his support behind Mr Trump when it was clear he would be the party's nominee, however. He then served as a loyal fundraiser and adviser during the general election campaign.

It looks like that move will pay off with one of the top ambassadorships - a prize that is traditionally given to only the most prolific donors or best-connected political insiders.

With an NFL owner in the Court of St James, can a new team in London be far behind?