Former Publisher Turns To Travel

Essence magazine co-founder and president emeritus Clarence O. Smith launched Avocet Travel in early 2003 with $2.5 million in startup costs. Smith and his seven employees have launched the nation’s first nonstop air charter service between the U.S. and Bahia, Brazil, the third leading tourist destination in Brazil, according to the American Society of Travel Agents. Avocet’s first nonstop chartered flight from New York (JFK) to Salvador da Bahia was launched at the end of April on VARIG Airlines, the largest air transportation company in Latin America.

Time Warner Inc. closed sister publication Suede, and now Essence magazine will weather the storms surrounding the company’s majority buyout without Diane Weathers at the helm as editor-in-chief. After four years in the position, Weathers resigned to “devote more time to her family and concentrate on writing books” but will remain an editor-at-large.

When Reginald Bowser launched RolloverSystems Inc., a 401(k) rollover company, in March 2003, he probably never envisioned becoming partners with Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, but that’s just what happened in April. Johnson made an investment in the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company that helps exiting employees easily reallocate their 401(k) or 403(b) investments into tax-deferred IRA accounts. In addition to his investment, Johnson will become chairman of Rollover’s board of directors. Johnson has also been busy completing the final closing of RLJ Development’s first private equity fund, the RLJ Urban Lodging Fund L.P., with $315 million in equity commitments. — Philana Paterson