The new owners of “EBONY” magazine and JETMag.com emerged on June 21, unveiling their plans for the iconic Black publications. The announcement came nearly a week after the Chicago Crusader published a story on the sale that was shrouded in mystery.
On Tuesday, a story published on EBONY.com described Clear View Group L.L.C. (CVG), the company that purchased Johnson’s magazines, as a Black-owned investment firm based in Austin, Texas led by Michael Gibson and Willard Jackson, the chairman and vice chairman, respectively. The partners started the firm in 2015.
In the story, Gibson said purchasing the two publications was a “no-brainer.”
The new owners said that “EBONY,” EBONY.com and JETMag.com will be part of the newly formed group called the Ebony Media Company (EMC). Johnson Publishing Company Chairman Linda Johnson Rice will serve as Chairman Emeritus of EMC. Kyra Kyles, who led the EBONY’s digital operations, will be the magazine’s editor-in-chief and senior vice president of digital editorial.
CVG purchased the Johnson publications in May for an undisclosed price. Columbia College Chicago bought the Johnson Publishing Company building for $8 million in 2010. College officials ditched plans to renovate the building and recently announced that they will put the 11-story property up for sale. Proceeds from the sale will help to fund a new building project, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
Gibson will serve as board chair of the new Ebony Media Company.
“Ebony’s always been a part of our families, so it had always been an attraction,” Gibson said in the EBONY.com story. “But this opportunity was introduced to us…and it didn’t take us very long to make a decision that this was something unique, it’s the most iconic image in the African American community and it’s a platform that we think is really important for us and all of our community.”
Gibson said that the partners view their strength “as raising capital and networking.”
CVG is still mum on the terms of the deal and the sale amount for “EBONY” and JetMag.com, two magazines that were founded by John H. Johnson, who used his mother’s furniture as collateral to start Johnson Publishing Company. The sale ended an era of “EBONY” and Jet, which were both family-owned since Johnson founded the company in 1942.
According to EBONY.com, CVG specializes in private equity acquisitions. Gibson and Jackson are Clear looking to transform the Ebony Media Company into a “multimedia platform” that will include existing print and digital operations. Clear View also said there is also a possibility of expanding into broadcast operations as well.
“We see bringing additional programs, activations, events…to further satisfy what we think is a need out there for African American content,” Jackson said in the Ebony story. “Whether its healthcare or education related, we want to offer different ways to provide content to the existing readership. We really see expanding the digital platform.”
Given the new ownership team, some former employees and fans believe Ebony won’t be the same. With little to no media experience and EBONY’s financial woes, there is also concern that restoring the magazine will be too difficult in a tough industry where advertising dollars have been declining for years.
In the EBONY.com article, Gibson said he is ready for the challenge.
Gibson added: “We have a reach of over 1.25 million subscribers a month, that’s more than any other (Black targeted) magazine that’s out there.”
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