by Yussuf J. Simmonds
(NNPA)—There is much speculation in the news that retired NBA star and businessman extraordinaire, Earvin “Magic” Johnson is negotiating to purchase Johnson Publishing Company, the parent company of Ebony and Jet magazines. Sources close to the possible purchase said that the company’s Chicago headquarters, a beacon of Black pride, on Chicago’s South Michigan Avenue, would be included if the deal is consummated. Nothing was mentioned about the Ebony Fashion Show and the radio station that are also a part of the Johnson Empire.
The Johnson Company, home of Ebony and Jet magazines, was founded over a half century ago by John H. Johnson. It evolved from the Negro Digest and has been a media source of inspiration that chronicled life in the Black community in a positive light. Since Johnson passed away in 2005, his daughter, Linda Johnson-Rice, has been the chairwoman and chief executive officer. His wife, Eunice Johnson, was the secretary-treasurer and founded the Ebony Fashion Show that showcased fashion for Black people unlike any other news media at that time; she passed in January 2010.
A call to Magic Johnson Enterprises did not generate an immediate response but according to a new media source, Eric Holoman, the company’s president reportedly said that there have been discussions but there’s no definitive agreement. There has been no subsequent confirmation.
The Sentinel reached out to Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks, whom Johnson had ardently supported in his bid for the supervisor’s seat and Parks said, “I think it would be fantastic and it would expand his empire specifically to communicate with the Black community.”
Many observers have noticed that in the past, when some of the Black community’s media treasures have changed hands, they usually get swallowed up in mainstream corporate media giants and no longer serve the specific public for which they were originally founded to serve, including Essence magazine, BET station(s) and Motown. The reality is that if Johnson is successful in purchasing Johnson Company’s Ebony and Jet magazines, and/or the rest of the Johnson media, it would remain in Black hands.
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. who bought the Los Angeles Sentinel over five years ago said, “If Magic purchases Ebony and Jet, it would stay in the hands of Black ownership. There couldn’t have been a better choice.”
Assemblyman Isadore Hall stated, “I think that he would give a different meaning to Ebony and Jet magazines because not only is he a noted figure, but he is also a keen businessman and he has a different dynamic as a sports personality. So he would give the magazine a different boost in the area of sports and entertainment.”
Percy Pinkley, senior state representative for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “I think it will be a great move because it will bring it to the West Coast … one of the premier magazines in the world. I think it will be a great thing.”
Johnson-Rice was unable to be reached for comment but her spokeswoman said, “Johnson-Rice has never talked to Magic Johnson with respect to his interest in buying the company.”
(From the Los Angeles Sentinel)