Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Chicago-based Johnson Publishing has sold Ebony, its African-American lifestyle magazine, and the now digital-only Jet magazine to Clear View Group, an Austin, Texas-based private equity firm, for an undisclosed amount. Johnson Publishing will retain its Fashion Fair Cosmetics business and its historic Ebony photo archives, which remains up for sale. The deal, which closed in May, also included the assumption of debt.
A family-owned business throughout its history, Ebony has documented the African-American experience since it first hit newsstands in 1945. It has shaped culture ever since, coming into its own as it reported from the front lines of the civil rights movement during the 1960s in powerful photos and prose.
In recent years, though, Johnson Publishing has seen declining media revenues as it struggled to evolve from print to digital platforms.
Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing and daughter of founder John Johnson, will serve as chairman emeritus on the board of the new company.
The new publishing entity, Ebony Media Operations, will maintain the magazine's Chicago headquarters and its New York editorial office, as well as much of the current staff, according to Michael Gibson, co-founder and chairman of African-American-owned Clear View Group. It is the first investment in the publishing business for Clear View.
Cheryl McKissack, who has served as chief operating officer since 2013, will assume the role of CEO of the new publishing entity under Clear View, operating out of the magazine's Chicago office. Kierna Mayo is stepping down as editor-in-chief of Ebony to pursue other opportunities, Gibson said.
Chicago-based 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, Gibson said.
Desiree Rogers, the former social secretary for President Barack Obama who has been steering Johnson Publishing since 2010, will remain CEO, focusing on the cosmetics business, which represents about half of the company's total revenue.
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 Sammy Davis Jr. The collection is still for sale. (Chicago Tribune, 6/15/2016)