In the Black community Ebony and Jet magazines are iconic brands that validate our achievements. On Tuesday, June 14 it was announced that Johnson Publishing sold the magazines for an undisclosed amount. The sale of the publications means that Johnson Publishing is no longer in the publishing business after 71 years.
Unlike the sale of BET to Viacom, the purchasing company is Black-owned. The new owner is the Austin, Texas-based Clear View Group, a private equity firm.
The sale comes after years of declining ad revenue and company restructuring at Johnson Publishing. The new media entity is now called Ebony Media Operations and will remain headquartered in Chicago, as well as retaining a portion of its editorial staff and administration at its New York editorial office.
Johnson Publishing has been an important part of the Black fabric since 1945 and has chronicled and showcased many aspects of the Black experience in America. The family-owned company was founded by the late John H. Johnson. His daughter Linda Johnson Rice will serve as chairman emeritus of the board of the new company, Ebony Media Operations. A statement from Johnson reads in part, “This is the next chapter in retaining the legacy that my father John H. Johnson built to ensure the celebration of African-Americans.”
Johnson Publishing will now focus on its cosmetics line, Fashion Fair Cosmetics, which generates about 50 percent of the company’s revenue. The sale of the magazines comes under the leadership of its CEO Desirée Rogers, who worked in the Obama administration as their incoming social secretary. Rogers, who has been at the storied company since 2010, also issued a statement, “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.”
The sale of the two magazines coincides with the January 2016 announcement that the photo archives for Ebony are also for sale. The company is hoping the sale price will be close to $40 million for the iconic images that captured our culture from the Civil Rights Movements to the rise of Black entertainment in popular culture.