Johnson Publishing Company, which was long one of America’s most prominent black-owned businesses, creating both Ebony and Jet magazines, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, effectively liquidating the company.
The company sold the titles to private equity firm Clear View Group in 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. Both are now run by Ebony Media Operations, which says that its operations are not affected by the bankruptcy filing.
After the sale of Ebony and Jet, Johnson consisted of Fashion Fair Cosmetics, a line targeted at women of color, and the Ebony Archive. The company cites “increasing competition from e-commerce in the cosmetic business” as one of the factors behind its financial problems. It also says that the purchaser of the company’s media properties failed to make required payments.
In a statement, Johnson refers to a potential buyer for “certain assets” of the company—“a group with a proven track record of advancing cultural preservation, supporting community-based businesses and building and operating legacy brands.”
Ebony was launched in 1945, with the goal of both spotlighting the achievements of black Americans and addressing addressing racial injustice. Jet followed in 1951, making a huge impact on the civil rights movement when it published an open-casket photograph of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was killed for allegedly offending a white woman.
Jet ceased print publication in 2014, but still exists as a Los Angeles-based online entity. Following the Clear View Group acquisition, Ebony moved most of its Chicago editorial operations to Jet’s L.A. offices.