Time Inc. has officially sold Essence—the magazine as well as its website and events business—to a group of investors led by Shea Moisture founder Richelieu Dennis, the latter announced today.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the buyer confirmed that Essence president Michelle Ebanks will continue at the helm and will gain an equity stake in the business.
The deal comes about six months after Time Inc. first put the 48-year-old title on the block, alongside other “non-core” assets, as the company preps for its upcoming merger with Meredith Corp.
Originally, Time Inc. had intended to sell only a majority stake in Essence. A company spokeswoman tells Folio:, however, that upon reaching the agreement with Meredith, it was decided that it would be in Essence‘s best interest to sell the full 100-percent stake.
As for the other brands on the block, Time Inc. scrapped plans to pursue a potential sale of Coastal Living in October, opting to retain the title instead, while Sunset was sold off in November. The spokeswoman tells Folio: that the sales processes of both Golf and Time Inc. UK are proceeding as planned.
“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.” 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.”
“The Essence team has extended the brand’s reach and influence across multiple platforms, solidifying its position as the premier destination for African-American women serving an audience of 16.3 million,” wrote Time Inc. president and CEO Rich Battista in a memo to staffers Wednesday afternoon. “I thank the entire Essence team for their tremendous passion and unrelenting commitment to driving the brand’s success.
Founded in 1970, the African-American women’s title was acquired by Time Inc. in two parts: a 49-percent stake in 2000, and the remaining 51-percent five years later. The announcement notes that the deal reestablishes Essence as a “100-percent black-owned independent company.”
“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,” added Dennis, who will serve as chairman of newly formed Essence Ventures, in the statement.
Born and raised in Liberia, Dennis came to the U.S. in 1987 to study at Babson College before laying the foundation for what would become a multi-million-dollar personal care business in Harlem in 1991. He sold Sundial Brands, Shea Moisture’s parent company, to consumer goods giant Unilever this past November, for an undisclosed sum.
“I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to go to college in the United States,” Richelieu told The New York Times in September. “By the time I graduated, we had a full-blown civil war in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. I couldn’t go home. We started making soap and selling it on the street. We built up the company to where it is today.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story implied that Michelle Ebanks’ departure from Time Inc. left an opening at the top of People en Español. A company spokesperson tells Folio: that the president position at People en Español, which Ebanks had held, no longer exists, and Monique Manso will continue to run the brand’s business side as VP/brand sales director.