Private-Equity Firm Buys Ebony, Jet Magazines
Johnson Publishing sells magazines that have chronicled African-American life since 1945
• The new company Ebony Media Corporation will be chaired by Linda Johnson Rice
• Clear View Group CEO welcomes ‘great opportunity’
• Ebony Media Corp. will maintain Chicago office and half the staff
- Kierna Mayo is stepping down as editor-in-chief of Ebony
- Chicago-based Kyra Kyles, will add the title of editor-in-chief of Ebony behind her name
- Johnson Publishing will retain its Fashion Fair Cosmetics business and its historic Ebony photo archives
“It’s a dream come true,” said Michael Gibson, co-founder and chairman of African-American-owned Clear View Group. “Growing up, we had Ebony and Jet in our household all along. You knew you made it when you made it to the cover of Ebony or Jet. It is just exciting — I pinch myself every morning.”
It’s true after rumors ran the muck, the formal announcement was made Tuesday, Ebony and Jet magazines have been sold. After making a great run to go the distance
After a 71-years of publishing in Chicago, Johnson Publishing is leaving the publishing industry and retaining its Fashion Fair Cosmetics business and its historic Ebony photo archives, however it remains up for sale. In January 2015, Johnson Publishing put its entire photo archive up for sale, hoping to raise $40 million. The historic collection spans seven decades of African-American history, chronicling everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Muhammad Ali and beyond.
The Iconic Ebony, once the leading African-American lifestyle magazine and the now digital-only Jet magazine was sold to Clear View Group, an Austin, Texas-based private equity firm, for an undisclosed amount. The deal, closed in May, including the assumption of debt.
Founded by John H. Johnson in 1945 Johnson Publishing Company /JPC was a family-owned business throughout all of its history. As Black publications go it set the precedence that all aspiring Black magazine publishers sought to emulate. Ebony has documented the African-American experience since its first edition. Ebony and Jet both captured the spirit and culture of Black Americans for all the world to see and influence its perception of African Americans.
Historically, it has captured the story of Black life in America from Emmett Till to Barack Obama and reported from the front lines of the civil rights movement to the rise of Black power during the 1960s through images and words keeping the nation and the world abreast of the coming of age of an oppressed people.
It has been so many things to Black people. Often it served as ambassador to the world representing African Americans at their best. It introduced Africa to its children and its children to its ancestors. It showcased the accomplishments of Blacks in sports, arts and entertainment, law, medicine, journalism, fashion, business, banking, architecture and more.
Like all printed media with the emergence of technology and the digital age coming to fore Johnson Publishing has faced declining revenue dollars as it struggled to change and advance from print to digital platforms and emerge victorious.
Daughter of founder John H. Johnson, Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing will serve as chairman emeritus on the board of the new company.
“This is the next chapter in retaining the legacy that my father, John H. Johnson, built to ensure the celebration of African-Americans,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Under the new the new publishing entity, Ebony Media Operations, will maintain the magazine’s Chicago headquarters and its New York editorial office. Many of the current staff, according to Mr. Gibson will remain in tack.
The purchase is a first of its kind for Clear View who is new to the publishing world. “We made this purchase because this is an iconic brand — it’s the most-recognized brand in the African-American community,” said Gibson, 59. “We just think this is a great opportunity for us.”
The changes include Cheryl McKissack, who has served as chief operating officer since 2013 assuming the CEO position of the new publishing entity under Clear View.
Sadly Kierna Mayo, who brought a certain timely brash to the publication is stepping down as editor-in-chief of Ebony to pursue other opportunities, according to Gibson.
Stepping into her shoes, Kyra Kyles, who has headed up digital content for Ebony and Jet since last June, will add the role of editor-in-chief of Ebony.
Both McKissick and Kyles will continue to operate from the Chicago office.
“When we make an investment, that’s what we look for — a strong team that can actually run the company,” Gibson said. “We’re not managers or experts by any stretch of imagination in the media business. What we bring to the table is very strong networking and the ability to raise financing and the ability to establish a vision for the company.”
On the other side Desiree Rogers, who has CEO of Johnson Publishing since 2010, will remain on board, focusing on the cosmetics business, which represents about half of the company’s total revenue.
“The overall strategy of separating these two distinct businesses — media and cosmetics — will ensure that both iconic brands are positioned for future investment and growth,” Rogers said in a statement.
Like any smart businessman the 59-year old Gibson has vision. He recognizes that the publishing industry continues to face the future as print media revenue decreases. However Gibson said, Ebony will remain in print for the foreseeable future while recognizing the need enhance the digital side.