Essence Is Once Again a Fully Black-Owned Publication After Time Inc. Sells Magazine and Its Music Festival to Black Skin-Care Mogul

For the first time in nearly two decades, Essence magazine is once again a fully black-owned publication.

The magazine, a mainstay of black culture for almost half a century, was bought by Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Sundial Brands, a large personal-care products company, from Time Inc., Essence Ventures announced on Wednesday. Mr. Dennis would not discuss the details of the sale.

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Dennis, 48, said that he bought the magazine “to serve and empower women of color.”

“This will give Essence a platform and a voice to serve its consumers, which are women of color,” Mr. Dennis said during a flight from his native Liberia to the United States. “They have allowed us to invest into the business so that we can bring in the infrastructure and resources.”

According to a statement released by the magazine’s owner, Essence Ventures, Essence will keep its current executive team, which consists entirely of black women, including Michelle Ebanks, the magazine’s president. The executive team will also have an ownership interest in the business.

The acquisition represents “the beginning of an exciting transformation of our iconic brand as it evolves to serve the needs and interests of multi-generational Black women around the world in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms,” Ms. Ebanks said in the statement.

Essence, a 48-year-old monthly lifestyle magazine, has a majority-black readership. The magazine focuses on fashion, pop culture, music and black life. It also holds an annual music festival, which was headlined last year by Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige and Chance the Rapper.

Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Sundial Brands, said he bought the company “to serve and empower women of color.” Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York TImes

Essence currently reaches over 16 million people via social media, print, digital engagement and live events, according to a spokeswoman for Essence Ventures.

In 2000, the magazine’s founders, Clarence Smith and Ed Lewis, sold a 49 percent stake in Essence to Time Inc. The company bought the remaining 51 percent in 2005.

Mr. Dennis said that he approached Time Inc. about buying Essence after Time Inc. was sold in November to the Meredith Corporation, the owner of Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle, in an all-cash transaction worth about $2.8 billion. Mr. Dennis sold Sundial Brands to Unilever that month.

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SOURCE: The New York Times – Sandra E. Garcia