ESSENCE CEO Michelle Ebanks unexpectedly steps down

Ebanks has served as CEO of ESSENCE since 2001 and under her leadership, ESSENCE Fest has become a cultural event that will feature Janet Jackson and Bruno Mars this year

Michelle Ebanks
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 01: Michelle Ebanks speaks onstage during the 2018 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Oscars Luncheon (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Essence)

ESSENCE is officially in search of a new executive leader. 

Michelle Ebanks, current Chief Executive Officer of Essence Communications, Inc., announced her resignation Monday which will be effective March 31. Following her departure, Ebanks plans to pursue other opportunities outside of the brand, as well as join the board of Essence Ventures, the parent company of ESSENCE.

As a member of the board, Ebanks will advise on strategic partnerships and new growth opportunities. Those will include the development of a diversity and inclusion capability that supports the advancement of people of color in the workplace.

READ MORE:  Janet Jackson, Bruno Mars to headline Essence Fest

 “I will always be grateful for the opportunity, but most importantly for the impact that ESSENCE continues to have on tens of millions of Black women globally. Since I began, my priority has been to position ESSENCE for its next phase, and we’ve done that,” Ebanks said in a statement

“The brand has been reestablished as 100% Black-owned and is well-positioned for continued success through what is a remarkable time of transformation and reinvention.” 

Ebanks has served as CEO of ESSENCE since 2001. Under her leadership, the ESSENCE Festival of Culture, more popularly known as ESSENCE Fest grew to become the world’s largest cultural, music, entertainment, and empowerment experience. It has produced more than $4 billion in economic impact.

ESSENCE Fest 2020 is set to be headlined by Janet Jackson and Bruno Mars, operating under the theme “Own Our Power.”

READ MORE: Corporate #BlackGirlMagic at Essence Fest

In the interim, Richelieu Dennis, founder & chairman of Essence Ventures, will assume the responsibilities of having direct oversight of the company. Dennis and the senior leadership team will continue working closely together on continuous transformation and strategy execution. 

“There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude, recognition, and admiration that we have for everything Michelle has brought to ESSENCE over nearly 20 years – her vision, her leadership, her advocacy, and her determination,” Dennis said. 

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Black-woman centered brand. Dennis will continue his search for a successor with Ebanks assisting in the transition and search process.