Time Inc. is selling Essence Communications Inc. to Essence Ventures LLC, a company launched in 2017 by Shea Moisture founder Richelieu Dennis. As a result, the Essence brand has returned to a 100% black-owned independent company, after 12 years of being owned by Time. via Black Enterprise
In 2015, my wife, Lauren and I served as media for an event chaired by Edward Lewis, Publisher and Co-Founder of Essence Magazine. The event was packed; black excellence and black affluence everywhere. It was the Association of Black Cardiologists’ 6th annual “Spirit of the Heart” Awards held at the famous Cipriani 42nd Street in NYC; I personally, had never seen anything like it.
My wife and I navigated through the crowd and walked up to Mr. Lewis, the last co-founder standing at the time Essence was sold to Time Inc., and introduced ourselves as Black Fitness Today. After the interview, he gave us his business card and asked to send him a copy of our magazine. He also suggested that we read his book, ‘The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women’ and take some of the lessons he learned over the years of running Essence Magazine and apply those same lessons during our journey with Black Fitness Today.
The book was a rollercoaster detailing how Essence almost didn’t get off the ground, to running out of money, to having to pull more investors in like Hugh Hefner (Founder of Playboy), to the mag failing to make a profit for the first seven years, to now serving tens of millions of readers across the globe and creating a community of loyal supporters who show up every year at the Essence Festival. That book provided the insight as to why Lewis sold Essence in the first place.
Why Edward Lewis Sold Essence – In His Words
In the chapter titled “selling in,” Lewis talks “selling in” – a play on “selling out,” something many accused him of doing when agreeing to sell Essence to Time Inc.
I wasn’t worried about the ‘soul’ of Essence. I was worried about its staying power. I wanted to ensure the longevity of Essence Communications as an institution serving the needs of black women. That would preserve its soul. It was becoming clear to me that independent, one- or two-magazine-titled companies were going to have a harder time surviving in the new millennium…The Internet was threatening to turn print on its ear. And there were the ever-escalating production costs that simply made it more expensive for smaller publishing companies.
To ensure the continued existence and growth of Essence it made sense to join with a mighty company that not only desired us, but promised to share with us its considerable resources.
What Time Inc. brought to the table was beyond anything we could ever do alone. [savings in production costs, syndicated research, opinion-poll capabilities, and advertising opportunities]
Excerpts from The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women
The Essence – Time relationship was supposed to be a five-year courtship when Time Inc. purchased 49 percent of Essence in 2000. But in 2005, the courtship turned into a marriage when Time purchased the remaining 51 percent to gain full control.
Much of the beef with Lewis’ move back in 2000 was his failure to bring potential black buyers to the table. But, almost two decades later, the tables have turned and ownership of Essence is back where it belongs in – in black hands.
Black media and black positive representation matters. So learning Essence Magazine is 100% black-owned once again is a breath of fresh air, especially given the sociopolitical climate. The power of ownership has become something even more important in our community, which is yet another reason to celebrate the reclaiming of Essence Magazine.