Ebony replaces CEO Willard Jackson after a financial investigation

The troubled magazine faces yet another setback

(Credit: Willard Jackson)

Ebony Magazine has removed its CEO Willard Jackson following an ongoing independent investigation about unspecified improper transactions.

The board of directors of the fabled Black publication stated that Jackson was removed from power last week on July 2 and that there would be a change in leadership, Deadline reported. It also revealed that there was an investigation launched about the misappropriation of funds weeks ago.

READ MORE: Ebony and Jet archives heading to National African American Museum

Chairman of Ebony Media Michael Gibson, Chairman of Ebony Media Operations Linda Johnson Rice and Co-Founder and Vice Chairman CVG and Vice-Chairman of Ebony Media Willard Jackson attend the EBONY Magazine And iTunes Movies' 2nd Annual Pre-Oscar Celebration at Delilah on February 23, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by J. Countess/WireImage)
Chairman of Ebony Media Michael Gibson, Chairman of Ebony Media Operations Linda Johnson Rice and Co-Founder and Vice Chairman CVG and Vice-Chairman of Ebony Media Willard Jackson in 2017. (Photo by J. Countess/WireImage)

However, there were no details given on what impact, if any, the findings had on the legacy outlet.

“The board of directors individually and collectively understands the legacy and value of Ebony to Black communities globally,” said Jacob Walthour Jr., newly-elected Chairman of Ebony’s Board of Directors said.

Ebony was founded in 1945 by John H. Johnson to offer reflection and commentary on the achievements of Black people. The board was committed that the ideals Johnson held dear would not be compromised in any manner.

Martin Luther King Ebony cover (Johnson Publications)

“Founder John H. Johnson conducted himself and Ebony business with a level of class, integrity and honor that has come to define Black professionalism in America. While the Board expects that EBONY will always need to adapt its business model to stay relevant, it must never compromise the core values of Mr. Johnson,” Walthour’s statement continued. 

John C. Robinson, an Ebony Director, was also mindful of the impact the publication has had as it will celebrate its 75th anniversary in November. He says it is vitally important that Ebony, despite its struggle play a role in the current racial reckoning. 

“As we approach EBONY’s 75th anniversary, now more than any other time since the Civil Rights movement, Black people need a medium to express ‘their’ voice and record this historical moment,” Robinson said.

READ MORE: Historic EBONY and JET photo archives sold at auction for $30 million

The board will prioritize paying Ebony employees who have long alleged that the company has been delinquent in its compensation. #EbonyOwes took off in 2018 as a hashtag on social media after freelancers accused the publication of not paying them for their work. A $80,000 settlement was ultimately reached.

The Jackson family on an iconic Ebony cover (Johnson Publications)

Furthermore, a third of Ebony’s staff was cut and its sister publication Jet discontinued its print edition in 2014. Adding to the woes, Last year, Johnson Publishing sold its photo archive for $30 million after filing for bankruptcy.

The archive boasts more than 4 million photographs, recordings, negatives and slides capturing Black life, celebrities, artists and activists in America;  everyone from Martin Luther King Jr.,  and Malcolm X to Maya Angelou, Muhammad Ali and Eartha Kitt.

CVG Group purchased Ebony in 2016 and Jackson is a partner in that firm. The financing of the acquisition was made possible by Parkview Capital Credit Inc. through various loans. Blueprint Capital Advisors took over PPC management in 2019.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!