Time Inc. sells Essence to black skin-care mogul

Essence magazine is returning to full black ownership for the first time this century.

Time Inc. has sold Essence Communications Group — which includes the 48-year-old magazine aimed at African-American women, as well as a music festival — to a new, black-owned business group led by Richelieu Dennis, founder of beauty and skin-care firm Sundial Brands.

Dennis — who sold control of Sundial to Unilever in November but remains its CEO — is buying Essence from Time, which initially purchased a 49 percent stake in the magazine in 2000 from founder Ed Lewis and purchased the remaining 51 percent five years later


Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence at Time Inc., will remain at the helm and have a seat on the board of directors of the new company, which will be branded Essence Ventures.

The deal restores Essence to 100 percent black ownership, the new entity said.

“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,” Dennis said.

Time Inc. said all existing employees will be retained by the new owners and that the existing executive team will have an equity stake in the new business.

Initially, when Time was trying to sell off assets and remain independent, it said it was seeking to sell majority interest in Essence, but wanted to keep a minority stake — presumably so a new owner could tap into cost savings as part of a big publishing company.

That strategy changed in November with the announcement that Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corp. was going to gobble up Time Inc. in a $2.8 billion deal.

Terms of the Essence deal were not disclosed. Time Inc. has also said it is selling Golf and Golf.com, which is said to be negotiating a sale to real estate and banking mogul Howard Milstein, although neither Time nor Milstein has officially confirmed the deal.

Time is also selling off its Time Inc. magazines in Britain to a private equity firm, but has not officially confirmed that deal. Sources said SI Play, a game tracking service for the youth sports market, was also in the process of being sold to NBC Sports, but Time has not acknowledged it is selling and neither side has commented on a potential deal.

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03 Jan 2018

By By Keith J. Kelly