Home Media Historic black media Ebony and Jet magazines set for bankruptcy battle

Historic black media Ebony and Jet magazines set for bankruptcy battle

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The battle for control over Ebony and Jet magazines is coming to a head in federal bankruptcy court in Texas next week.

The publisher of the two storied publications, which have chronicled black culture in America for more than 75 years, is facing a liquidation demand from Parkview Capital Credit, a Houston-based firm that claims it’s owed $11.9 million.

The filing for involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy — which Parkview claims is actually part of a plan to salvage the Ebony and Jet brands and revive them on the Web — comes just weeks after publisher Ebony Media’s former CEO Willard Jackson was fired and removed from the board.

His ouster came amid an investigation into financial transactions he allegedly made without the approval of the company or its creditors, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Ebony Media didn’t immediately comment to the Journal on those allegations at the time. Jackson did not return a call from The Post on Thursday.

The battle pits Parkview Chairman Jacob Walthour against CVG Group, a Texas-based buyout firm that counts Jackson as one of its partners and that bought Ebony Media in 2016 from the founding Johnson ­family.

While Parkview claims Walthour is the rightful CEO, CVG wants to bring in investor Robert Schumaker as the company’s chairman.

In its filing for emergency relief, CVG’s Ebony Capital Partners does not deny that the operating company owes Parkview the money, but insists that since Parkview is an insider running the publishing company, it can’t qualify as a creditor to ­demand a liquidation.

An attorney for Ebony Capital Partners said that the Chapter 7 motion is, for now, blocking plans for new funding.

“The financing is being worked out,” said the attorney, Lloyd Lim. “There’s a confidential agreement. They are substantially down the road on discussing the replacement of the lender and new capital.”

But Lim declined to reveal the name of a proposed new lender.

“This bankruptcy petition has to be dismissed first,” he said.

Lim said he was unsure of what the plans would be on reviving the print magazine, but said ECP intends to revive the Ebony brand with podcasts, videos and Web publishing.

Ebony magazine highlighted then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and future First Lady Michelle Obama in February 2007.
Ebony

Ebony, founded in 1945, also included Jet, the pocket-sized publication that famously published the searing photo of 14-year-old Emmett Till lying in his casket with his mother looking on after he was killed in 1955 by a white mob in Mississippi. The photo was the dramatic equivalent of the George Floyd police-slaying video of 2020.

Ebony’s photo archives were not included in the 2016 sale to CVG, but were sold by the Johnson family in a bankruptcy auction for $30 million to philanthropic partners.

Ebony magazine at its peak in the 1980s had circulation of 2.3 million. It chronicled the civil-rights movement in the 1960s and featured cover subjects rang­ing from Martin Luther King Jr. to Sammy Davis Jr. to then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and future First Lady Michelle Obama.

Jet has not posted anything online in more than a year, but Ebony Media Holdings still holds the rights to the trademark.

At the time of the 2016 sale by Linda Johnson Rice, the daughter of founder John H. Johnson, Ebony still had a monthly print circulation of 1.2 million, although Jet had gone to an all-digital format in 2014. Ebony went all-digital last year.

Staffers and writers had been complaining that they had not been paid almost from the moment CVG took over. In 2018, a group of 45 freelance writers with the National Writers Union hammered out a deal whereby Ebony and CVG would pay off about $80,000 in unpaid invoices dating to 2016.

But a year later, the NWU filed suit in Chicago, claiming Ebony ­Media Holdings reneged on the agreement. Johnson Rice, who had originally remained involved with the new company as chair emeritus, left the board two years later, unhappy with the new owners.

One of Ebony’s last postings was in January, in which it called for the banning of chokeholds by police.

In its filing, Ebony Capital Partners claimed Parkview had prohibited employees of Ebony Media from posting any new stories, even after the nation was convulsed by protests in the wake of the Floyd killing by Minneapolis police on May 25.

An attorney for Parkview Capital, Fareed Kaisani at the Baker Botts law firm, did not return a call seeking comment.

The emergency hearing in which Ebony Capital is trying to quash Parkview’s Chapter 7 filing is set for Aug. 6.

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