After a decade and a half of white ownership, Essence magazine, a backbone of black culture for 48 years, has once again become a fully black-owned publication after it was bought by Richelieu Dennis, a Liberian-American who is also the founder of Sundial Brands, a large personal-care products company.
Essence is a monthly magazine for African-American women between the ages of 18 and 49. It is the only magazine that focuses on reaching an audience of black women, revolves around the black woman’s experience with the goal of empowering African-American women.
The magazine was owned by Time Inc. The actual detail of the sale has not been made public.
Richelieu Dennis, whose company, Sundial Brands, now owns the magazine, was recently conferred the distinction of Knight Commander and admitted into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
During the ceremony, the President described him as one of the many unsung Liberian heroes who are relatively unknown at home but are making their homeland proud by the great jobs they are doing in the Diaspora.
“Richelieu, you are one of Liberia’s unsung heroes,” the President said. “Many years ago in 1997, a decision was made to change the course of events to start that long journey and this is where we are today.”
Richelieu Dennis was born in 1969 unto the union of the late Richelieu Dennis, Sr. and Mary Dennis in Monrovia. The Sundial Brands CEO graduated from St. Patrick’s Catholic School, and later traveled to the US for further study at Babson College. However, upon graduation in 1991, he was unable to return to Liberia because of the civil war.
In an interview with New York Times, Dennis, 48, said he bought the magazine “to serve and empower women of color.”
“This will give Essence a platform and a voice to serve its consumers, which are women of color. They have allowed us to invest into the business so that we can bring in the infrastructure and resources,” he said.
Dennis said that he was raised by a single mother who read Essence magazine and that his four daughters read it. “I’m very focused on giving back, investing and growing my community,” he said. “This is a continuation of my quest to do that.”
The Essence motto is “Black women come first,” and Dennis said he intends to live up to it.
“What we now have is an opportunity to have the liquidity to make investments in Essence,” said Dennis. “We can now invest in women of color as consumers.”
Essence Ventures, the company which owns the magazine, in a statement released after the sale, said the magazine will keep its current executive team, which consists entirely of black women, including Michelle Ebanks, the magazine’s president. The executive team will also have an ownership interest in the business.
The acquisition represents “the beginning of an exciting transformation of our iconic brand as it evolves to serve the needs and interests of multi-generational Black women around the world in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms,” Ebanks said in the statement.
Essence currently reaches over 16 million people via social media, print, digital engagement and live events, the company spokeswoman said.