Essence Ventures, the independent African-American-owned company focused on merging content, community and commerce, acquired the multimedia platform from Time, which was recently purchased by Meredith Corp, with assistance from Koch Equity Development for $1.85bn in cash. President of Essence Communications, Michelle Ebanks will hold the top post for the entity and join its board of directors. Her leadership team, completely made up of black women, will all have ownership stake in the brand.
“This acquisition of Essence represents the beginning of an exciting transformation of our iconic brand as it evolves to serve the needs and interests of multigenerational black women around the world in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms,” said Ebanks in a statement. “In addition, it represents a critical recognition, centering and elevation of the black women running the business from solely a leadership position to a co-ownership position.”
Through the new parent company’s investment and resulting incremental growth opportunities, Essence plans to focus on expanding its digital businesses via distribution partnerships, compelling original content and targeted client-first strategies. In addition, the brand said it will expand its international growth by planting its rich content ecosystem, including its flagship magazine (started in 1970), digital properties, and successful live event franchises in more global markets with women who have “shared interests and aspirations.”
Richelieu Dennis, founder and chairperson of Essence Ventures had this to say about the acquisition: “The strategic vision and leadership that Michelle has provided to Essence over the years have been exemplary, and we are thrilled to work with her and her talented team to provide the necessary resources and support to continue to grow the engagement and influence of the Essence brand and transform this business. As importantly, 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.”
Essence, 100% black-owned for the first time since 2000 reaches over 16 million across its digital, social, video and print platforms and Dennis, who also founded haircare brand Shea Moisture, said he expects it to expand through its independent lens. “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. 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.”
After the sale of rival magazines Jet and Ebony to Clear View Group, Essence holds the honor of being one of the most popular independent publications specifically catered towards black women. Ebanks and company looked to build on that further. “Essence has always embodied and evangelized what the world now sees – the sheer beauty, power and magic of black women,” she said. “From her influence in politics and at the polls, mandate for social justice, and demand for economic inclusion to her impact on beauty culture, leadership in equal rights efforts, and catalyzation of community empowerment, she is at the forefront – driving the cultural phenomena that are positively changing the world. Essence will continue to lead that charge with, for and beside her as the unparalleled platform for her voice.”
This is the latest imprint under the Time family to break off: the publisher sold its lifestyle brand Sunset to Regent in late December.