Friday, February 12, 2010

Magic to Buy Johnson Publishing?

By Brett Pulley

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Hall of Fame basketball player, is in talks to purchase Johnson Publishing Co., the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines.

“There have been discussions,” Eric Holoman, president of Los Angeles-based Magic Johnson Enterprises, said in an interview. “There’s no definitive agreement.” He declined to comment further.

The 58-year-old publishing company’s Chicago headquarters would be included in the sale, a person with knowledge of the situation said. A purchase may require satisfying liens that have been placed on the building by one of the company’s creditors, said the person, who declined to be identified because the talks are private.

Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing, declined a request for an interview, said Wendy Parks, a spokeswoman for Johnson Publishing. Johnson Rice “has never talked to ‘Magic’ Johnson with respect to his interest in buying” the company, Parks said.

The former Los Angeles Lakers star would make the company a part of his Magic Johnson Enterprises, which includes partnerships with Starbucks Corp., 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. and T.G.I. Friday’s Inc., the person said. Advertising revenue at Ebony magazine declined 38 percent to $35.5 million last year on a 39 percent drop in ad pages, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Johnson Publications, founded in 1942 by Linda Johnson Rice’s father, John H. Johnson, targets African-American readers and owns archives of photos documenting more than a half century of black life and culture.

Magic Johnson Enterprises was founded by the former National Basketball Association player in 1987.

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