Image: Curt Johnson, former chairman of Diversey, Inc., and defense attorney Michael Hart in Racine, Wis., County Circuit Court
Mark Hertzberg  /  AP
Curt Johnson, the former chairman of Diversey, Inc., listens to defense attorney Michael Hart discuss bond recommendations, as he is charged Thursday in Racine, Wis., County Circuit Court with a count of repeated sexual assault of a child.
msnbc.com news services
updated 3/25/2011 5:35:52 PM ET 2011-03-25T21:35:52

A billionaire executive whose family has run SC Johnson for five generations was charged Thursday with having sexual contact with a now 15-year-old girl over the course of several years.

Samuel Curtis Johnson III, who goes by Curt, faces a count of repeated sexual assault of a child. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Johnson, 55, is the former chairman of Sturtevant-based Diversey Inc., a cleaning-products company that was spun off from SC Johnson in the late 1990s. Privately held SC Johnson makes household products including Pledge, Glade, Windex and Ziploc.

Part of the criminal complaint were released Thursday, but the Racine County court commissioner ordered part of the complaint and a motion on sealing by Johnson's attorneys sealed until the matter could be heard by a judge. A Friday hearing on the sealing was canceled and will be made part of Johnson's April 13 preliminary hearing, prosecutors said.

Johnson resigned from Diversey's board in February and was taking a leave of absence for personal reasons, the company said at the time.

Diversey spokesman John Matthews told The Associated Press on Thursday that Johnson had retired effective the end of March and that his leave of absence immediately removed him from any role with the company. Johnson was replaced by his sister, Helen Johnson-Leipold.

The criminal complaint says Johnson had inappropriate sexual contact with the girl 15 to 20 times. The girl told investigators Johnson wanted to have sex with her, but she refused.

The girl told authorities that inappropriate touching started when she was between 6th and 7th grade, and the last incident occurred in November 2010, according to the complaint cited by the Journal Times of Racine.

Prosecutors said the girl confided about the abuse to her mother, who confronted Johnson. He allegedly admitted to fondling the girl and repeatedly apologized for his behavior.

Johnson is not in custody but was ordered at his initial court appearance Thursday to pay $500,000 cash bond, have no contact with the victim and no contact with any minor female children unless in the presence of another adult. Other bond conditions include not leaving the state and surrendering his passport.

Forbes magazine estimated the wealth of the married father of four this month at $2 billion, making him No. 595th richest on its list of the world's billionaires.

His brother, Fisk Johnson, heads SC Johnson, also known for household staples Windex, Pledge, Ziploc.

Fisk Johnson, in an email cited by the Journal Times to employees Thursday, said, "The nature of allegations of this type is always appalling. And our family is distraught. This is an ongoing investigation. I fully respect the process and can only hope for the best for everyone involved."

Family spokesman Harlan Loeb said echoed the comments, saying also, "Obviously this is a personal matter for Curt."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Billionaire heir accused of abusing teen

  1. Transcript of: Billionaire heir accused of abusing teen

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Now to the sex scandal that has rocked one of the nation's most successful families, a billionaire heir to the SC Johnson household products fortune charged in a shocking case of sexual abuse involving a member of his own family. NBC 's John Yang is in Racine , Wisconsin , with the details. John , good morning.

    JOHN YANG reporting: Good morning, Matt. SC Johnson III is one of the world's richest men, heir to a fortune built on such brand names as Johnson's Wax , Windex , Drano ; and this morning he's also an accused man, charged with one of the most horrendous of crimes. Samuel Curtis Johnson III , a billionaire whose name is synonymous with squeaky clean households, was in court to face charges that he sexually abused his stepdaughter for more than three years.

    Unidentified Man: We reviewed the evidence, we looked at the law and made a determination as to whether or not we believe we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt , and made a charging determination. He's been treated the same as everyone else.

    YANG: Johnson , known as Curt , has yet to enter a plea. He and his attorneys have refused comment. The criminal complaint says Johnson 's stepdaughter, now 15, told investigators there was a "touching problem" with him, and that Curt has a sex addiction . She told investigators her stepfather would use his hands to touch her private parts, breasts and buttocks under her clothes. She estimated there were between 15 and 20 instances of abuse since the summer of 2007 before she finally told her mother to protect her younger sisters. Johnson 's the great-grandson of the company's founder, worth an estimated $2 billion. Though he'd run a separate family company since the 1990s , he's part of the fifth generation of Johnsons to own and run the maker of such household products and household names as Windex , Drano and Pledge .

    Ms. KELLY SEMRAU (Spokesperson, SC Johnson): This is a personal matter for Curt Johnson . It has absolutely no bearing on SC Johnson .

    YANG: Company chairman Herbert Fisk Johnson III told employees, 'Unfortunately, no family is immune from crises. I love my brother, and the news of these claims has been very devastating.' This morning the 55-year-old Johnson is free on a half million dollars cash bond. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison. Matt :

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