Johnson Publishing Sells Off Ebony and Jet
Johnson Publishing has sold the Ebony and Jet magazine brands, handing ownership of the titles born in Chicago to an investment firm in Austin, Texas.
The magazines, a staple in African-American households that chronicled the civil rights movement, were the cornerstone of a business empire founded in 1942 in Chicago by the late John Johnson.
His daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, has owned and overseen the operations, including the Fashion Fair cosmetics line, in recent years, but struggled to buoy profits in the face of digital competition and rival publications aimed at African-American readers. The company had cut costs and jobs, eliminated the print version of Jet and sold other assets to keep the company operating.
“This deal allows JPC to reduce its debt associated with the media business and focus its attention on the archives, and continue to invest in its cosmetics business, Fashion Fair Cosmetics,” Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers said in a statement.
She confirmed an earlier Chicago Tribune report that the titles had been purchased in May by an African-American investment firm in Austin called Clear View Group, which is led by Michael Gibson. She declined to say how much the buyer paid for the assets.
“This is the next chapter in retaining the legacy that my father, John H. Johnson, built to ensure the celebration of African-Americans,” Johnson Rice said in the statement. She became CEO in 2002, three years before her father died in 2005.
While the two magazine brands will become part of a new entity called Ebony Media, the Fashion Fair cosmetics division will remain with Johnson Publishing and under the leadership of Johnson Rice as chairman and Rogers as CEO.
Johnson Publishing’s current chief operating officer, Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, will become CEO of Ebony Media and continue working from Chicago.
Separating the media and cosmetics businesses “will ensure that both iconic brands are positioned for future investment and growth,” Rogers said.
In a similar move, Playboy uprooted its publication in 2011 and moved operations to Los Angeles. Like Playboy, the Johnson Publishing’s flagship monthly Ebony and the weekly Jet had been downsizing for years as readers and advertisers shifted to digital alternatives. Both titles had reduced staff, and in 2014, Jet eliminated its print edition.
Kierna Mayo is stepping down as editor-in-chief of Ebony, and ceding that title to Kyra Kyles, who adds that role to her oversight of the two titles’ digital operations.
By LYNNE MAREK