Ebony Mag Up For Sale: Report

Ebony magazine was created in 1945

By Susan Ball
|  Tuesday, Sep 29, 2009  |  Updated 1:14 PM CDT
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Ebony Mag Up For Sale: Report

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Items from the "gift bag" on display at the Ebony Magazine Oscar Party "Hollywood in Harlem."

The world's largest African-American-owned publishing company, is reportedly seeking out buyers and investors for its historic Ebony magazine.

Facing devastating losses in advertising and circulation, the owner of the nation's oldest magazine devoted to African-Americans, Johnson Publishing Co., is struggling to turn a profit in a dwindling market.  Last year, revenue at Johnson, which also publishes weekly news magazine Jet, fell 28 percent, according to a financial report by Crain's.

In an effort to keep the publication alive, Linda Johnson Rice, Chairman and CEO of the Chicago-based company, has already approached media giants Time Inc. and Viacom, as well as other private investors, according to Newsweek

Rice would like to remain an integral part of Ebony regardless of new ownership, the article suggests, reaching out to companies with experience in similar markets.  Time, Inc. currently owns Essence, a lifestyle, beauty, and fashion magazine for African-American women, while Viacom runs BET (Black Entertainment Television.)   However, a sale to a mainstream company would inevitably put an end to African-American control of the magazine.

In May, the publishing company mortgaged its South Michigan Avenue headquarter's building to printer R.R. Donnelley & Sons.  Three months later it cancelled its 51st annual Fashion Fair fall show amidst "economic challenges that are affecting many, including our potential corporate sponsors," Rice said in a statement.

"The company is in big, big trouble," a publishing executive told Newsweek.  "It's a sad thing, because they are so important to [African-American] communities."

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