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More problems for Ebony as CEO steps down again

Linda Johnson Rice leaves company again as magazine misses a payment to writers

Crusader Staff Report

Ebony Media CEO Linda Johnson Rice has exited the iconic, but beleaguered magazine for the second time as payroll problems continue to plague the company.

On Tuesday, October 23 Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Johnson stepped down from Ebony Media Operations after she skipped a September 20 payment that violated an $80,000 settlement agreement with 45 writers, many of whom who had not gotten paid for months, and some years, for their published work.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Rice stepped down last March without the company making a formal announcement. It’s unclear why the company waited for months to report Rice’s departure.  Rice remains chairman emeritus at Ebony Media.

Ebony was founded in 1945 by John H. Johnson, who made history in 1971 after becoming the only Black-owned company on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, in the Loop. The building was the headquarters of Johnson Publishing Company, which produces Ebony and Jet magazines.

Rice sold the headquarters in 2010 to Columbia College. In 2017, the building was sold to 3L Real Estate for $10 million. The building, which was designated a Chicago landmark last year, is being converted into apartments.

The print edition of Jet ceased publication in 2014. In 2016, Rice sold Ebony and Jet to the investment firm CVG Group that’s headed by Michael Gibson. In March 2017, Rice assumed the role of CEO of Ebony after Cheryl Mayberry McKissack exited the company.

Rice stepped down in March. She told Crain’s Chicago Business that she never planned on staying in the role long term.

“For us, it just wasn’t that big of a deal,” she told the Crain’s Chicago Business.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Gibson has assumed the role of CEO of Ebony Media in addition to being Chairman.

Johnson stepped down one month after Ebony reached a settlement agreement to pay 45 writers a total of $80,000 for work that was never paid for. The agreement came after the National Writer’s Union filed a lawsuit against Ebony Media Operations in Cook County Circuit Court.

National Writers Union President Larry Goldbetter told Crain’s Chicago Business that Ebony Media made the first payments under the settlement this year, then missed the September 30 payment. Gibson told Crain’s Chicago Business that his company has a goal to pay everyone by the end of the year, but Goldbetter said “That’s not good enough.”





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