for a moment, then he said, “Well, you’d better leave before both of us start crying.” And I did. I had a plane to catch to New York.
B.E.: What has the response been like, both in and outside of the company?
JOHNSON RICE: The response has been overwhelming. Internally, everyone has been great about coming by and giving me their support and congratulations, telling me they’re behind me, they’re on my team. It’s been wonderful. The same is true outside. I went to an Ebony Women in Marketing and Communications Awards luncheon in New York, and our associate publisher, Jeff Burns, read the letter before introducing me. People went wild. There was just such love and support there. It wasn’t necessarily surprising, but it sure felt good!
B.E. : All eyes are on you now. The question looms, what next? What will the day-to-day and long-term impact of your appointment be on JPC?
JOHNSON RICE: I know everyone will be asking, is it going to remain privately held? The answer is yes, absolutely. As for how I’m going to grow the business, we’re not looking to alter the products, but I will look to augment them by taking the names Ebony, Jet, and Fashion Fair and branding them into other areas such as video and television, perhaps with partners, perhaps on our own. I get approached by a lot of different people with a lot of different ideas — some good, some not so good. I have to sort through all of that which
I will do along with my father. No one’s input could be more valuable to me than his.
B.E.: Your father has been planning this succession for a long time. Do you envision passing the torch to your daughter?
JOHNSON RICE: Alexis is 13 and she’s already told me that she wants my job. I have never said, nor will I ever say, to Alexis, “This is what you’re going to do.” Neither of my parents ever said that to me. What I have always told her is, “You should do what you feel passionate about.” Now, of course, the whole time I’m saying that, I’m crossing my fingers that she will want to do what I’m doing. But it really will be her choice to make.
B.E.: What was her reaction to your appointment?
JOHNSON RICE: I told her about it on the phone, and she said, very distinctly, “You are the C-E-O? That’s a good thing!” I said, “Yes, it is.” — Caroline V. Clarke