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Vanguarde Shuts 3 Mags; Going Out of Business

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Monday, November 24, 2003

Vanguarde Shuts 3 Mags; Going Out of Business

Vanguarde Media, publishers of Savoy, Honey and Heart & Soul magazines, is going out of business, shutting down the magazines and throwing more than 70 people out of work, Vanguarde Chairman and CEO Keith Clinkscales told his staff late today.

"As of today, Vanguarde will be no more. It's filing for bankruptcy tomorrow," Savoy Managing Editor Carla Williams told Journal-isms.

"Everyone is leaving. There will be a good pool of talented black journalists out there," she said.

Clinkscales founded Vibe magazine, which remains successful, in 1993, and left that publication in May 1999 to found Vanguarde, as Media Week reported at the time.

That fall, he acquired Honey, then a female-oriented hip-hop magazine, from Harris Publications and the urban music trade magazine Impact from the estate of founder Joseph Loris. Honey was rechristened "a fashion and entertainment magazine aimed at stylish urban women."

In May 2000, Clinkscales announced he was closing Emerge, "Black America's Newsmagazine," after 10 years, and said he might relaunch it under another name. He said he also planned to increase publication of the black women's health magazine Heart & Soul from six to 10 times a year.

As Keith L. Alexander reported then in USA Today, "Clinkscales got operating control of Emerge, Heart & Soul and the BET Weekend newspaper insert in February from Black Entertainment Television Chairman and CEO Robert Johnson . . . his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother and college-days mentor."

Clinkscales folded BET Weekend. The new, lifestyles-oriented Savoy, which aspired to be a "black Vanity Fair," was offered to Emerge subscribers, giving it a subscriber base of 120,000 when it debuted on newsstands the following January.

Roy S. Johnson, who had been at Time Inc., most recently as editor-at-large at Fortune, became Savoy's founding editor and also editorial director of Vanguarde, which when Johnson left in December 2002 included Savoy, whose circulation had risen to 325,000; Honey, 400,000; and Heart & Soul, also 400,000.

Ron Stodghill II, a correspondent for Time magazine, was named to succeed Johnson as Savoy's editor-in-chief in January.

Williams told Journal-isms that Clinkscales broke the news at a staff meeting at the company's Park Avenue South headquarters in Manhattan. "Some people were really emotional," she said. The meeting lasted an hour, "maybe longer," she said.

Clinkscales told that his efforts to raise additional funds to keep the business operating had been unsuccessful.

"I gave it a good run," said Clinkscales. "I haven't lost my faith in black or urban media."

Fred Terrell of the Provender Capital Group, LLC, Vanguarde's major shareholder, said Vanguarde planned to file under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, under which a firm is protected from claims by creditors while it attempts to reorganize its finances under a plan approved by the court.

"It is a sad day for all of those who invested their skills, their passion and their lives in something they truly believed in with their entire souls," said Savoy's founding editor, Johnson, who is assistant managing editor/special projects at Sports Illustrated. "Vanguarde changed the game -- for ethnic media, and for those who expected more from each of us -- and I don't think anyone can take that away from it."

Yanick Rice Lamb, who had edited BET Weekend and Heart & Soul and who now teaches newspaper journalism, magazine publishing and new media at Howard University, said: "I hate to see magazines close -- especially Heart & Soul, given its legacy of providing health and fitness information to African-American families. It was always heartening to hear readers say that our articles and programs helped them lead healthier lives. This was so important given our health disparities and dire statistics.

"It's also sad to see so many people lose their jobs and so many black magazines disappear in a relatively short time span: BET Weekend, Emerge, YSB, Code and now Heart & Soul, Savoy and Honey. All of these titles had potential -- and still do.

"Magazine publishing is a tough and complex business, especially in this economic climate. In addition to solid editorial, a strong audience, proper positioning and solid advertising, it requires the right mix of management, marketing and money -- patient money and lots of it. Magazines can take years to break even and turn a profit. I'd love to see the day when a greater number of black magazines survive long enough to reach this point, with all the necessary ingredients and resources."

George E. Curry, who edited Emerge and now edits the National Newspaper Publishers Association news service, told Journal-isms: "It's never good when we lose Black publications and I genuinely feel sorry for Keith Clinkscales and his staff, several of whom are my friends.

"Contrary to what people might suspect, I take no delight in the fact that the people who closed Emerge magazine now find themselves closing. Keith was passionate about magazines and although he did not do things the way I would have preferred, I respect his attempt to provide African-Americans with additional choices in magazines."

"Vanguarde was about something more than just a company," executive vice president Bo Kemp, a company founder, told Journal-isms. "For those who've been here, you could feel that and know that."

Keith Clinkscales Statement on Liquidation Decision

"Today, Vanguarde Media regrets to announce a decision to cease publication of HONEY, SAVOY and heart&soul magazines and to liquidate the assets of the company. While this is no easy decision for any of us, our most recent efforts at securing funding proved unsuccessful, and we are no longer able to sustain operations.

"I would like to extend tremendous gratitude to our readers and advertisers for their dedication to our publications, as well as Provender Capital Group, Robert Johnson, and the rest of Vanguarde's board for their support.

"The last several years have been difficult for the publishing industry, and for Vanguarde especially, like all independent publishers. Our decision is in no way indicative of the phenomenal strength of the urban media marketplace, and I look forward to creating other opportunities to reach this most influential audience.

"Above all, I would like to thank my team for their leadership, professionalism and tireless efforts over the last four years, for creating superior editorial products and a company that I have been proud to be a part of."

Statement from Provender Capital Group, LLC

"Vanguarde was building its business in a magazine industry that has struggled with dramatically lower advertising revenue due to the downturn in the economy. Throughout this period, Provender Capital Group has provided the primary financial support to the company. The company's plan for growth required additional financing in 2003, however, the environment for raising capital for a young company remained difficult this year and the sources of capital limited. As such, it was the fiduciary duty of the company's board to support a decision to file for bankruptcy protection.

"We would like to give tremendous thanks to the Vanguarde team for all their hard work. Provender Capital Group is disappointed by this unfortunate outcome, as Vanguarde represented a unique opportunity to reach the African-American and urban reader."

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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