EBONY Media accuses group of being ‘fraudulent’ in battle over brand ownership

The board of directors tells theGrio that the allegations are rooted in resentment and bitterness over recent changes at the magazine

Ebony Jet magazine Bridgeman
Items from the "gift bag" on display at the Ebony Magazine Oscar Party "Hollywood in Harlem" at the Crustacean Restaurant on February 24, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Items from the "gift bag" on display at the Ebony Magazine Oscar Party "Hollywood in Harlem" at the Crustacean Restaurant on February 24, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

EBONY Media Holdings is denying claims lodged against its chairman, accusing a “vocal minority” within the company apparatus of fraudulently mispresenting the brand name.

In a statement provided to theGrio, Michael Gibson, co-founder and chairman of Clear View Group, LLC, which purchased EBONY in 2016, claims that a recent press release issued by Ebony Capital Partners was “fraudulent” and described it as an attempt at “holding themselves out to be the true owners of EBONY.”

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A press release issued by a group claiming to be the legacy Black media company accused Ebony Magazine’s board of directors, hedge funder Jacob Walthour of Blueprint Capital (BPC) and Chief Executive Officer John CRobinson of Consequent Capital (CC) of trying to sabotage the publication into bankruptcy through alleged insider trading and violating its privacy policy.

Gibson and EBONY Media Holdings, however, say that Ebony Captial Partners are not the legitimate owners of the brand and therefore were not authorized to issue the press release on behalf of the magazine.

A representative for the company told theGrio that the company infighting stems from unauthorized investment dollars from Ebony Capital Partners on behalf of former EBONY CEO Willard Jackson Jr. without the knowledge or approval from its other board of directors.

Jackson was removed as CEO earlier this month after an investigation relating to his transactions.

In a statement, Gibson said: “As we go through this internal transition, we know that not everyone is cheering for us. In fact, there is a vocal minority that is daily issuing fraudulent media releases via PR Newswire and holding themselves out to be the true owners of EBONY. They are calling themselves Ebony Capital Partners LLC, an intentionally confusing play of the EBONY name and brand.

READ MORE: Ebony Magazine forced into involuntary bankruptcy

“There is one EBONY Magazine and it is owned and operated by EBONY Media Holdings. We are pursuing every legal avenue to end the misrepresentations and fabrications.”

In the earlier press release issued by Ebony Capital Partners, Jacob Walthour, now the chairman EBONY Media Holdings, was accused of using his position to share confidential information with The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets with the intent of publicly disparaging Ebony.

Gibson denied those assertions and said there is “no legal or factual basis for the assertions set forth in releases issued by Ebony Capital Partners, and indeed the claims are nonsensical. The Company is further not aware of any lawsuits or regulatory complaints that have been filed against it or its directors.”

“Clearly, this matter is significant, and it is important. But it is not insurmountable. The truth will prevail, and EBONY Magazine will survive and thrive,” he adds.

EBONY has seen its fair share of adversities, including potentially facing a forced bankruptcy as lenders claim debts remain unpaid.

As theGrio previously reported, creditors of the historic Black publication are pushing for a Texas federal court to force the brand into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a rare move but one they deem necessary.

Multiple petitions state Ebony Media Holdings LLC “is generally not paying its debts as they become due, unless they are the subject of a bona fide dispute as to liability or amount.”

Three companies are leading the charge for the bankruptcy filing. Houston-based Parkview Capital Credit claims to be owed $11.9 million, California-based David M. Abner & Associates claim a debt of $9,400 and New York-based Plum Studio claims to be owed $2,300.

Back in 2019, the original owners, Johnson Publishing Company, filed for bankruptcy. Both Ebony and Jet Magazine were sold in 2016, theGrio notes, to the Texas-based company now also facing bankruptcy.

The filing “was an attempt to re-position the company’s iconic assets, including the Ebony and Jet brands, for long-term success,” says Parkview in a statement to The Root.

“Ebony has been the voice of the Black community for 75 years and we look forward to positioning the company’s assets to serve the Black community for another 75 years,” continues Brad Southern, president and chief investment officer for Parkview.

According to Law360, Ebony will have the chance to challenge the owed amounts.

Ebony officially celebrates its 75th anniversary in November.

theGrio’s DeMicia Inman and Christian Spencer contributed to this report.

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