After 71 years in the media business, the iconic Johnson Publishing is getting out of publishing.
The financially-strapped business founded by the late media mogul, John H. Johnson has sold its iconic magazine Ebony and its digital-only publication Jet magazine to an Austin, Texas-based private equity firm, Clear View Group. The deal was finalized in May for an undisclosed amount of money and also includes the company’s assumption of debt.
A family-owned and launched business, Johnson Publishing will continue to own its Fashion Fair Cosmetics brand and for now, keep its historic archives of Ebony magazine photos. It was announced in January 2015 that the company’s photo archive is up for sale as well, something that has garnered negative backlash from both consumers and industry types alike since it was announced. Johnson Publishing hopes raise $40 million with the historic collection of images.
Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing and the daughter of the company’s founder Johnson, 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.
Clear View Group has now launched Ebony Media Operations and plans to continue the magazine’s Chicago headquarters and maintain its New York editorial office. It is expected that most of the staff for the publication will also stay, however Editor-in-chief Kierna Mayo has already announced her departure and she has been replaced by Kyra Kyles. Mayo has already accepted a position as the Senior Vice President of content and brands for Radio One/TV One’s digital sister company Interactive One.
Former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, who became CEO of Johnson Publishing in 2010, will stay on in her position as well. She will primarily oversee Fashion Fair Cosmetics now.
In speaking with Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column, Rogers said that it was “fantastic” that the company was sold to an African American firm.
Despite the financial woes of Johnson Publishing and declining advertising revenue for Ebony and Jet, Clear View’s co-founder and chairman, Michael Gibson said the acquisition was a smart business move.
“We made this purchase because this is an iconic brand — it’s the most-recognized brand in the African-American community,” Gibson told the Chicago Tribune. “We just think this is a great opportunity for us.”
In other news, Johnson Publishing’s former Michigan Avenue headquarters that was sold to Columbia College nearly six years ago is up for sale. The college purchased the 11-story, 110,000-square-foot Johnson Publishing Building for $8 million in late 2010. It is expected the legendary building located at 820 S. Michigan Ave. will likely become either apartments or condos once the college moves out.