In 1896, Johnston sold his company for the sum of £2 million to Ernest Terah Hooley who re-launched Bovril for the sum of £2.5 million, with John Lawson Johnston continuing to serve as the company’s chairman and being the largest single shareholder. It seems that Johnston sold Bovril being keen to retire from the business and focus more upon his other interests in life. His son George was heavily involved with the company, but spent most of his time in South America sourcing the cattle needed to produce Bovril; several photograph albums in the ECA’s Bovril collection illustrate some of the operations there. Johnston recruited prominent individuals to sit on the Board of the company, including Baron Playfair (later to become Lord Playfair) and Dr Robert Farquharson, MP, who had an interest in dietetics. With such members on its Board of Directors the emphasis on the promotion of the product’s health-giving and restorative benefits continued.
By the end of the 1890s Johnston’s health was beginning to decline and he finally died in Cannes, on board his boat, the ‘White Ladye’, on 24 November 1900;he left a wife, 13 children and an estate worth £850,197. His remains were returned to Britain and interred in Norwood Cemetery, London. Nevertheless, the business he had created and developed continued and flourished throughout the 20th century, was bought by Cavenham Foods in 1971, and is today owned by the multinational company, Unilever Foods.