Time Inc. Sells Essence Magazine (And Its Music Festival) To Group Led By Sundial Brands CEO

Essence Ventures announced its acquisition of Essence Communications, including Essence magazine and its Essence Music Festival, from Time Inc. on Wednesday for an undisclosed amount.

Essence Communications was founded in 1968 and the first issue of Essence magazine arrived in May 1970. Initially launched as a fashion magazine, the publication covers topics from lifestyle to politics for black women. Time Inc., then a part of Time Warner and publisher of Fortune, Time, Sports Illustrated, and People, among other magazine titles, purchased 49% of Essence Communications in 2000. Five years later, it bought the remaining shares.

Essence’s wildly popular Essence Festival, held in New Orleans and featured prominently in last year’s summer film Girls Trip, is the biggest magazine-sponsored festival in the world. More than 470,000 people attended last year and the crowd is expected to be even bigger this July, thanks in part to the movie’s impressive box office performance.

Essence Ventures is an African-American owned company focused on merging content, community, and commerce founded by Richelieu Dennis, the CEO and founder of Sundial Brands. The company owns Nubian Heritage, Madame C.J. Walker, and nyako. In November, it sold one of its most well-known brands, SheaMoisture, to Unilever.

Essence president Michelle Ebanks will continue in her role. Notably, she—along with the rest of the company’s all-black female executive team—will have an equity stake in the business. “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 said in a statement, adding that the transaction was “the beginning of an exciting transformation.”

Time Inc. first announced plans to sell a majority stake in Essence Communications last July. After Meredith Corp. announced its $3 billion acquisition of Time Inc, executives revealed that Essence would not be a part of the deal and that it would seek to sell the entire unit.

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