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Chase unit takes stake in Ebony publisher

Updated: July 7, 2011 3:36PM

Johnson Publishing Co., publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, said JPMorgan Chase’s Special Investments Group will become an investor in the company, the first outside investor at the family-owned business.

The investment “positions Johnson Publishing for continued growth,” by “providing financial resources to take our iconic Ebony and Jet magazines to the next level and accelerate our growth strategy for Fashion Fair Cosmetics,” Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of the company and daughter of its founder, said in a statement.

The minority investment was described as “substantial,” but Rice maintains a majority stake in the Chicago-based company. Further details were not disclosed.

Desiree Rogers, former White House social secretary for President Obama, was named chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing last year. She said at that time she planned to expand Ebony and Jet magazine’s licensing and website presences and grow the company’s Fashion Fair cosmetics line.

Johnson Publishing, like many media companies, has grappled with declining circulation and revenues in recent years. Jet’s circulation dropped 11.7 percent in 2009 from 2008 to 795,035, and Ebony’s fell 9.7 percent to 1.17 million. The company named a new editor-in-chief at Ebony last year as part of a management makeover and took itself off the market for sale.

Ebony now has a circulation of 1.25 million per month, and Jet has a circulation of 800,000 per week, according to the company, which was founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson. The publications are the No. 1 and No. 3 publications, respectively, focused on black America.

“We are delighted to partner with our client Johnson Publishing Co., with which we have worked for more than 40 years,” Greg O’Hara, head of Chase’s Special Investment Group, said in a statement. “This investment demonstrates our commitment to Johnson Publishing’s iconic brands, which have stood the test of time.”

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