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Hilco Streambank Successfully Completes a $30 Million Sale of Historic Johnson Publishing Photo and Media Archive

Jul 31, 2019

Following a robust auction and bidding process an impressive consortium of foundations has purchased the asset with plans to preserve and display the impressive collection for generations to come.

Hilco Streambank (www.hilcostreambank.com), a leading intellectual property advisory firm specializing in the valuation and sale of intangible assets, has successfully completed the auction for Johnson Publishing Company, LLC’s historic photography and media archive, which includes more than 4 million images, negatives and notes along with thousands of hours of video and music footage chronicling African American history dating back to 1945.  The archive was sold for $30 million dollars to a consortium of foundations, comprised of the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Moneta Sleet Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., surrounded by his family, holding the Nobel Peace Prize medal (1964). Photo courtesy Johnson Publishing Company

Moneta Sleet Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., surrounded by his family, holding the Nobel Peace Prize medal (1964). Photo courtesy Johnson Publishing Company

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the foundation consortium will donate the archives to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Getty Research Institute, and other leading cultural institutions for the public benefit to ensure the broadest access for the general public and use by scholars, researchers, journalists, and other interested parties. 

Hilco Streambank was hired in June to run the marketing and sales process on behalf of the estate by Miriam R. Stein, the chapter 7 trustee for Johnson Publishing.  Ms. Stein who worked closely with the Hilco team said, “Hilco Streambank did an incredible job of marketing this unique asset to a wide range of potential buyers in a very compressed timeframe.  These efforts generated a very robust set of highly qualified bidders to the auction.” 

The auction, which commenced on July 17th in Chicago, was ultimately extended by a week to accommodate the large number of interested participants. Ultimately the final bidding was completed on Wednesday, July 24th and the deal closed on Friday July 26th with the foundation consortium successfully purchasing the asset.  Ms. Stein added, “the final purchase price was an outstanding result for the estate and the process that the Hilco Streambank ran exceeded our expectations in terms of finding an ideal buyer that would be a great steward for this historic asset.”

Gabe Fried, CEO of Hilco Streambank said, “It was an honor to be selected by the Trustee and secured lender to be tasked with maximizing the recovery from this truly unique and historically important asset.  Our team worked hard to reach out to a highly targeted collection of potential buyers who had the means and the vision to appreciate this archive.  We are extremely grateful for the hard work of Linda Rice Johnson, Vickie Wilson and John Roach from Johnson Publishing and the commitment made by so many of the interested parties to conduct substantial diligence including site visits prior to the auction.”  

Johnson Publishing, which filed for bankruptcy on April 9, 2019, previously owned and published the storied Ebony and Jet magazines.  The two publications are known to have visually captured African American life for decades, having featured historic photos that reflect the African American experience at a pivotal time in the nation’s history, from the post-war, pre-civil rights era through the Obama Presidency. 

Jeffrey B. Hecktman, CEO of Hilco Global said, “this extremely successful sale of the Johnson Publishing IP exemplifies the breadth and depth of all aspects of the Hilco Global operating company expertise.  Our best in class teams understand how to maximize the value of a wide range of unique assets from intellectual property to real estate to retail inventory and more.  We have built an organization that is second to none.”

Hilco Streambank remains engaged by the Trustee in Johnson Publishing for the sale of the Fashion Fair beauty line of cosmetics.  Fashion Fair was heavily marketed through both Ebony and Jet magazines and distributed at major department stores throughout the United States.

For any questions relating to the sale of the photo archive or Fashion Fair, please contact Hilco Streambank directly using the contact information provided below.

Gabe Fried
CEO – Hilco Streambank
gfried@hilcoglobal.com                                                                                         
617.458.9355

Richelle Kalnit
Senior Vice President – Hilco Streambank
rkalnit@hilcoglobal.com
212.993.7214   

Ben Kaplan
Associate – Hilco Streambank
bkaplan@hilcoglobal.com
646.651.1978