Essence Communications, a brand known for its popular monthly magazine and annual music festival, is once again 100 percent African-American owned.
Time Inc. announced Wednesday, that Essence Ventures LLC, an independent African-American owned company, acquired the media company.
“The ESSENCE team has extended the brand’s reach and influence across multiple platforms, solidifying its position as the premier destination for African-American women serving an audience of 16.3 million,” said Time Inc. President Rich Battista in a memo to staff obtained by NBC News.
“I thank the entire ESSENCE team for their tremendous passion and unrelenting commitment to driving the brand’s success. We wish the ESSENCE team the best and will watch this celebrated brand continue to flourish in its next chapter," he stated.
Essence Communications will be led by an all-black female executive team. Members of the team were excited about the announcement.
“We wish you could have been in the room to see the excitement and pride on the Essence Teams' faces as we gave them the good news,” according to a statement on the Essence website . “The new journey on which we are embarking will be fueled not only by the passion we have (and have always had) for Black women, but also that Black women will be at the helm as we move forward.”
Essence Ventures is founded and chaired by Richelieu Dennis, founder of Sundial Brands which owns Shea Moisture. Sundial Brands announced in November a partnership with Unilever to acquire Sundial. Dennis serves as CEO and executive chairman of Sundial under the Unilever partnership.
“We are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves and offer new opportunities for the women leading the business to also be partners in the business,” Dennis said in a statement.
Michelle Ebanks will continue to serve as president of ESSENCE Communications and will join its board of directors. Ebanks will also have equity stake in the business along with the executive team of ESSENCE.
“The strategic vision and leadership that Michelle has provided to ESSENCE over the years have been exemplary, and we are thrilled to work with her and her talented team to provide the necessary resources and support to continue to grow the engagement and influence of the ESSENCE brand and transform this business,” Dennis said.
Co-founded by Ed Lewis and Clarence Smith in 1968, Essence has been one of the lifestyle go-to companies for African-American women. Starting with the magazine in 1970, it has expanded globally, eventually leading to the annual Essence Music Festival in 1995 and online website ESSENCE.com. In 2000, Time Inc. acquired a 49 percent stake of Essence from its founders and acquired the remaining percentage five years later.
The future of Essence was uncertain when it was announced Meredith Corporation was buying Time Inc. in November. Under the agreement, the $2.8 billion deal would include Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated.