Could it be the end of an era?
Johnson Publishing Company has announced the sale of Ebony Magazine, Ebony.com and Jet.com to a private equity firm called Clear View Group in Austin, Texas for an undisclosed amount. But Jet is already assuring its readers that despite the management shift, it won't be moving down south.
The deal was made in effort to reduce Johnson Publishing Company’s debt. In the last few years, Johnson has struggled to transition their content from print to digital platforms, but they are not alone.
According to Pew Research, African American media outlets have been able to sustain longer than any other minority group, but have seen a decline in audience since 2014. While competitor Essence saw a circulation increase in 2014, Ebony's circulation decreased and Jet stopped printing altogether and relaunched as a weekly digital publication in 2014.
Johnson Publishing has been a family operated company since it hit the ground in 1945. The iconic lifestyle magazine has captivated readers for 71 years by chronicling the African-American experience. Founder John H. Johnson’s daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, who currently serves as the chairman of Johnson Publishing, will remain involved with the reshaping of the magazines outlets as the chairman emeritus on the board within 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," Rice said in a statement obtained by NBCBLK.
Johnson Publishing will hold on to their Fashion Fair Cosmetics business, designed specifically for people of color, and plans to focus their attention on the photo archives, which has been for sale since January 2015 in hopes of raising $40 million.
The question though that remains still is this: does the sale constitute the finale of an era? From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to President Barack Obama, Ebony magazine has been a pioneer in highlighting African-American culture through inspiring depictions of leaders in the community.
For seven decades, African-American homes have waited for their monthly issues of the magazines to celebrate the past and present of Black history. After the announcement on Tuesday, some took to twitter to express their opinions.
Though Johnson Publishing Company is selling Ebony and Jet, they have not abandoned their publications. The company that will be gaining the Ebony Legacy, ClearView, is African-American owned and operated by co-founder and chairman, Michael Gibson. This will be the first publishing business for Clear View. According to Gibson, Ebony Media Operations will maintain its Chicago Headquarters, New York editorial office and much of the current staff.
"We made this purchase because this is an iconic brand — it's the most-recognized brand in the African-American community," said Gibson in a statement. "We just think this is a great opportunity for us."
Cheryl McKissack will step into the role of CEO of the new publishing entity under Clear View, leaving her former role of Chief Operating Officer. 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.
Kierna Mayo, however, who served as the Editor-in-Chief, VP, Digital Content, announced on Twitter that she will be leaving Ebony Magazine. Mayo has accepted the position of Senior Vice President of Content and Brands at Interactive One.
Ebony Magazine borrowed from rapper Kendrick Lamar's lyrical catalog, Tweeting, 'We gon' be alright.'
For now the company is confident in the sale of Ebony and Jet, and is looking forward to growth of the publication.
"The overall strategy of separating these two distinct businesses- media and cosmetics— will ensure that both iconic brands are positioned for future investment and growth," said Desiree Rogers in a statement. Rogers will continue as CEO of JPC focusing her time on Fashion Fair Cosmetics.