Essence Acquisition Brings Magazine Back Under Black Ownership

By Sameer Rao Jan 04, 2018

After nearly 13 years under Time Inc., Essence magazine will, once again, operate under Black ownership. 

Essence Ventures LLC, a company founded and chaired by Shea Moisture CEO Richelieu Dennis, announced in a press release yesterday (January 3) that it acquired Essence Communications from Time Inc. for an undisclosed sum. Essence Communications’s properties include the magazine, and the annual Essence Festival

USA Today reports that the new deal places Essence Communications president Michelle Ebanks on Essence Ventures’ board of directors. It also gives Essence’s all-Black female executive team an equity stake in Essence Ventures, which effectively makes them co-owners.

Ebanks celebrates the purchase terms as a return to form for the magazine, founded in 1970 as a monthly publication for Black women.

"This acquisition of Essence represents the beginning of an exciting transformation of our iconic brand as it evolves to serve the needs and interests of multigenerational Black women around the world in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms,” Ebanks said in the press release. “In addition, it represents a critical recognition, centering and elevation of the Black women running the business from solely a leadership position to a co-ownership position.”

Editor-in-chief Vanessa De Luca shared a similar message in a letter published online yesterday. "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," she wrote. 

Dennis, who faced criticism last year over a Shea Moisture commercial that near-exclusively featured White women, stated in a press release,"Our focus here will be on ensuring that Essence reaches its full potential via heightened capabilities, technology, products and touch points that super-serve the interests of Black women locally and globally"  

The Meredith Corp acquired Time Inc., which purchased Essence in 2005, for $2.8 billion in November. The former company received over $500 million for that bid from billionaire brothers and conservative political funders David and Charles Koch. The Root reported at the time that Essence Communications was not a part of that sale.