J.P. Morgan agreed to extend a financial lifeline to the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, two iconic names in African-American media

J.P. Morgan agreed to extend a financial lifeline to the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, two iconic names in African-American media.

The investment was in the tens of millions of dollars, according to a person familiar with the transaction. In return, J.P. Morgan will own a minority stake in Johnson Publishing. The Chicago company was founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson. His daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, now owns the company.

“We’ll have additional resources that we know is going to accelerate our growth strategy,” said Desiree Rogers, the former White House social secretary who signed on as Johnson Publishing’s CEO last year. She declined to discuss details about the J.P. Morgan investment.

Rogers said securing additional financing for Johnson Publishing was one of her top priorities since she came aboard at the request of Johnson Rice, the company’s chairman. The two women are close friends in the tight-knit Chicago social circle that also includes Barack Obama.

Under Rogers, the company has redesigned Ebony magazine, and the CEO said J.P. Morgan’s cash infusion will allow Johnson Publishing to give a fresh look to Jet and to Ebony on the Web. Johnson Publishing’s cosmetics line, Fashion Fair Cosmetics, also will be able to explore fresh packaging or brand repositionings, Rogers said.

Rogers was brought on to help steady a company that has posted circulation and revenue declines for its magazines, and has been relatively slow to embrace digital publishing. In recent years, Johnson Publishing even has held discussions with potential buyers, including reportedly with Earvin “Magic” Johnson. (Rogers said Johnson Publishing wasn’t involved in sale talks with the basketball star-turned-entrepreneur.)

J.P. Morgan, which acquired Chicago-based Bank One, has longstanding ties with Johnson Publishing, the company said. When Johnson Publishing was founded, the company’s first checking account was with a predecessor to J.P. Morgan, according to Rogers.

Even with Johnson Publishing’s ties to J.P. Morgan, a sale of a piece of the company was “not taken lightly,” Rogers said. “This allows us to remain the majority owner of the company and grow the business,” she added.

Dear EBONY Readers:

It is with great pleasure that I inform you that JPMorgan Chase has become an investor in Johnson Publishing.

What does this mean for you? More exciting, relevant and high-quality content, as we use the additional resources to take our iconic EBONY and JET publications to the next level.

This relationship with a respected financial partner, with whom we have worked for more than 40 years, doesn’t change who we are. Johnson Publishing Company will remain a family-owned business, and will proudly carry on our legacy as the leading media company committed to the Black community.

I would like to personally thank you for your continued support of EBONY. Readers like you are at the heart of our company and we are dedicated to providing you with the best-in-class media you have come to expect.


Amy Barnett

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