Sundial Brands Founder Acquires Essence Magazine

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Richelieu Dennis, Sundial Brands

Essence Ventures, LLC, an independent African-American owned company focused on merging content, community and commerce has acquired the multi-platform media company Essence Communications from Time, Inc., Essence Ventures announced in a press release. This deal marks the return of black ownership of Essence Magazine.

“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,” said Essence President Michelle Ebanks, in the press release. “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.”

Ebanks will continue at the helm of the company and will also join its board of directors. In addition, the all Black female executive team of Essence, including Ebanks, will have an equity stake in the business.

Essence Magazine was not a part of the Time Inc. sale to Meredith Corp. in 2017 and remained opened to a new buyer until now. Richelieu Dennis, the founder and chairperson of Essence Ventures and founder of the ubiquitous SheaMoisture (Sundial Brands), said he looks forward to taking the magazine’s brand to the next level.

“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,” said Dennis in the press release. “As importantly, 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.”

Since its founding in 1970, Essence has been a hallmark for women’s empowerment and a cultural beacon of pride and celebration of the diverse images and lifestyles of Black women. Today, Essence is an international, omni-channel destination for diverse storytelling and original content comprising beauty, fashion, lifestyle, entertainment and culture.

“Essence has always embodied and evangelized what the world now sees – the sheer beauty, power and magic of Black women,” said Ebanks. “From her influence in politics and at the polls, mandate for social justice, and demand for economic inclusion to her impact on beauty culture, leadership in equal rights efforts, and catalyzation of community empowerment, she is at the forefront – driving the cultural phenomena that are positively changing the world. Essence will continue to lead that charge with, for and beside her as the unparalleled platform for her voice.”

Essence currently reaches a global audience of more than 16 million across its various platforms encompassing its signature print magazine; digital, video and social platforms; television specials, including the Black Women in Hollywood Awards on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network; books; and live events, including the Street Style Block Party during New York Fashion Week and the annual Essence Festival, a cultural celebration that debuted in 1995 and is now one of the country’s largest annual events, attracting more than 450,000 attendees.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.