Magic Johnson In Talks To Buy Johnson Publishing
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Earvin "Magic" Johnson

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, retired NBA star and businessman, has entered into talks to purchase Johnson Publishing Co. and possibly take the reigns of Ebony and Jet magazines.

If Johnson, who is not related to the Johnson publishing family, were to purchase the 68-year-old Johnson Publishing (No. 15 on the BE 100s Industrial Service list with $328 million in revenues), the transaction would infuse new blood into the company, says Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. “The business model that they started, like the rest of the magazines in this country, is no longer working, says Husni.

Sale rumors have been in the air since February 2009 when the company underwent a reorganization.

“There’s no definitive agreement,” said Eric Holoman, president of Los Angeles-based Magic Johnson Enterprises, in an interview with Bloomberg. Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of acclaimed publisher and JPC founder John H. Johnson, declined to comment. Magic Johnson did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.

Magic Johnson, the former Los Angeles Laker, has formed several strategic partnerships with companies such as Sodexo, Starbucks Corp., AMC Entertainment Inc., and Aetna. Johnson has also ventured into the financial services sector, and through the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund committed nearly $1 billion in capital on the revitalization of ethnically diverse communities. He also licenses his name and likeness to companies such as Jackson Hewitt and furniture rental company Rent-a-Center, an endeavor that critics say discredits his goals to uplift the black community.

Like many other publishers, Johnson Publishing has faltered under the weight of the current economic crisis. Ad revenue at Ebony declined 38% to $35.5 million last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau. In an effort to boost revenue at Jet, Rice announced this month that Jet, a weekly, will be redesigned to include a new layout and content.

“As a world-class media company, we will solidify Jet’s position as an innovator and leader in the African-American marketplace,” said Rice, in the announcement. Rice became chairman and CEO in 2005 when John H. Johnson passed away.

Ebony and Jet Magazines introduced the country to Black American life, fashion, and celebrities when John H. Johnson founded the magazine in 1942 on a loan from his mother’s furniture.

Husni credits Jet magazine with sparking the national civil rights movement when it published the photos of the brutally mutilated body of Emmett Till in his casket in 1955. Till’s murder was racially motivated and the photos not only shed light on lynching in America’s southern states, but supercharged the magazine’s success.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.