Essence magazine returned to Black ownership on Jan. 3 when Essence Ventures, LLC announced its acquisition of Essence Communication, Inc.
Essence Ventures, is a Black-owned company founded and chaired by Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Shea Moisture.
“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.
Essence Communication encompasses both Essence Magazine, with an annual circulation of 1.6 million, and the Essence Music Festival, an annual summer “party with a purpose” held at the New Orleans Superdome. The festival is attended by nearly half a million people each year.
Essence Communication is being sold by Time, Inc., the publisher of Time magazine, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly which began its acquisition of Essence Communication with a near-majority stake in 2000. By 2005, Time had acquired Essence wholly, putting a publication focused on serving women of color under White ownership.
In this latest transition, the Essence current President Michelle Ebanks will remain at her post and assume a position on Essence Ventures board of directors, the release said. Essence magazine is notable for its all-Black, all-woman executive team. This leadership, including Ebanks, will be given equity stakes in the company going forward, Dennis said.
This ownership take will allow these women assertive control in the new venture’s operation and a share in the fortunes of the company going forward.
“[The acquisition] represents a critical recognition, centering and elevation of the Black women running the business from solely a leadership position to a co-ownership position,” Ebanks said in the Essence Ventures press release.
The 47-year-old publication has expanded from print to almost every corner of social media and the internet. The new ownership group will now attempt to further globalize the brand, Dennis said.
“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,” Dennis said. “We look forward to helping generate new opportunities that create more value across the ESSENCE portfolio with unmatched content, commerce and international access for the millions of women it serves, as well as exceptional value for our advertising partners and content creators.”