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Johnson Publishing Company Files for Bankruptcy

Johnson Publishing Company, one of the nation’s most successful Black-owned businesses, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The Chicago-based company, founded in 1942 by the late John H. Johnson and later run by his daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, started Ebony and Jet magazine.

The petition, filed this week the Northern District of Illinois, states between 200 and 999 creditors, as well as between $10 million and $50 million in both assets and liabilities.

The court filing said the company is seeking to liquidate after failing to find new sources of funding.

The storied publishing company, once the most recognizable African-American-owned brand in the country, was started in Chicago in 1942. It sold its headquarters on Michigan Avenue in 2010, and in 2014 Jet became transformed to a digital-only format.

In June 2016, the company sold Ebony and Jet magazines to a private equity firm in Texas. It still owns Fashion Fair cosmetics.

Dorothy Leavell, editor and publisher of the Chicago Crusader, said Johnson Publishing is an icon in the printing business and that its founder gave visibility to a community often overlooked by mainstream media with positive portrayals of African Americans in both Ebony and Jet.

“Rarely would you go into a home and not see an Ebony magazine or a Jet magazine on a coffee table,” Leavell told Chicago’s WLS-AM.

Leavell, who chairs the National Newspaper Publishers Association, hopes that Black publications will thrive in the digital age.

“We have to learn how to reinvent ourselves and how to move into this new era,” she said.

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