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Time Inc. Sells Essence to Black-Owned Independent Venture

Time Inc. has sold Essence Communications — the 50-year-old media brand catering to female African-American audiences — ahead of the closing of its deal to be acquired itself by Meredith Corp.

Essence Communications is being acquired by a privately held venture formed by Richelieu Dennis, the founder of hair- and skin-care products maker Sundial Brands.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The pact comes a little over a month after Time Inc. agreed to be acquired in a $2.8 billion deal by Meredith, the publisher of female-skewing publications and owner of 17 TV stations. That transaction is backed by an affiliate of Koch Industries, headed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

The new owner of Essence is Essence Ventures LLC, led by founder and chairman Richelieu Dennis. Essence president Michelle Ebanks will continue to run the company and will also join its board of directors. In addition, the all-black female executive team of Essence, including Ebanks, will have equity stakes in the business.

Under the new ownership, Essence will focus on expanding its digital businesses via distribution partnerships, developing original content and pursuing “targeted client-first strategies,” according to the announcement.

“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 in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms,” Ebanks said in a statement.

Dennis commented, “The strategic vision and leadership that Michelle has provided to Essence over the years have been exemplary, and we are thrilled to work with her and her talented team to provide the necessary resources and support to continue to grow the engagement and influence of the Essence brand and transform this business.”

In November 2017, Unilever announced the acquisition of Sundial Brands, with Dennis continuing as CEO.

Founded in 1968, Essence Communications launched its flagship magazine in 1970. Today it’s a multiplatform content brand encompassing beauty, fashion, lifestyle, entertainment and culture. Time Inc. had acquired a minority stake in Essence Communications in 2000, and bought the entire business in 2005.

Essence reaches a global audience of more than 16 million unique users across platforms, including its print magazine; digital, video and social platforms; TV specials, including the Black Women in Hollywood Awards; and live events including the annual Essence Festival, which attracts more than 450,000 attendees annually.

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