Three Top Execs Fired at Johnson Publishing
Ebony and Jet publisher looks to stem advertising slide.
Three top-level executives were laid off Monday from the Johnson Publishing Company, publishers of Ebony and Jet magazines.
The departure of those executives–Jeff Burns, Ebony senior vice president and associate publisher; Ebony senior vice president and Midwest advertising director Dennis Boston; and Barbara Rudd, Ebony vice president and Western advertising director–was confirmed by the publisher.
On the heels of the layoffs, Nijole S. Yutkowitz was named vice president and group advertising director for Ebony and Jet. Yutkowitz formerly served as national advertising director for Jet.
"We’ve decided to merge our advertising leadership to be more cohesive, especially to meet the changing landscape of the advertising world," Johnson spokesperson Wendy Parks told FOLIO:, noting that she does not expect any additional layoffs. When asked about the circumstances surrounding the individual layoffs, Parks declined to comment.
Burns, who was reached by phone Tuesday evening, said he was "shocked" by his sudden termination, and indicated that the three layoffs may indeed be connected. He said the decision came down from president and CEO Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of company founder John H. Johnson.
"The company is restructuring and slimming down, and trying to run mean and lean," Burns said. "They’re trying to turn around the slide in advertising, which has of course affected the entire advertising industry." Through September, Ebony was down 8.7 percent in ad revenue ($46.5 million) and 10.3 percent in ad pages, when compared to the same period last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures. Jet was down roughly six percent in both ad revenue and pages over the same period.
Burns said he had pioneered unconventional marketing campaigns during his tenure with Johnson, having helped create several signature event marketing programs including Ebony’s annual Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications awards and Ebony’s annual Hollywood in Harlem film festival. "If you’re in a period when you’re trying to increase and hold on to sales, you want your strongest, most creative sales representative on board to do just that," said Burns.
Neither Boston nor Rudd could immediately be reached for comment.