Johnson Publishing President Steps Down

Six weeks after the arrival of former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, and two weeks after the naming of a new editor-in-chief for Ebony, Johnson Publishing Co. Monday announced the resignation of Anne Sempowski Ward, its president and chief operating officer.


Ward was on maternity leave.

Rogers, a longtime friend of Chairman and CEO Linda Johnson Rice and a fellow Chicagoan, started work June 1 as a consultant "assisting with various aspects of corporate strategy as it relates to our core brands, Ebony, Jet and Fashion Fair," spokeswoman Wendy Parks told Journal-isms.


Rogers' presence appeared to underscore Johnson Rice's June declaration that, "I have no plans to sell the company. None," and that she was excited about what her new editor might bring to the table.

Parks told Journal-isms Monday that Rogers' initial contract was for two months and that, "She is not being considered for president and COO."

Ward was president and COO of Fashion Fair Cosmetics when she was named Johnson Publishing Co. COO in October 2008. "She will be responsible for developing the company's financial and operational strategies and implementing diversified initiatives to grow sales and brand equity across all JPC brands including Ebony magazine, Jet magazine and Fashion Fair Cosmetics," Rice said then.

Prior to joining Fashion Fair, Ward was assistant vice president of African-American marketing for the Coca-Cola Co. and spent more than a decade at Procter & Gamble, "where she led several brands and categories, including Pampers, Always, Tampax and hair care. She had a lead role in the launch of significant African-American marketing campaigns and created the 'Total You' beauty platform across P&G's largest beauty brands," a news release said at the time.


The June 2 announcement that Amy DuBois Barnett, deputy editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar magazine and former editor of Honey, would become editor-in-chief was viewed as a favorable step on the editorial side, especially since the slot had been vacant or filled on an interim basis for 14 months.

Ward's portfolio was principally the business and marketing side of the company.

For 2010, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, "Black Enterprise, Ebony, Essence and Jet were down a collective 18 percent in ad pages through the first quarter - about double the industry average," as Jason Fell reported June 17 for Folio. "Ad pages slipped 8.2 percent at Black Enterprise while Johnson Publishing's Ebony and Jet saw dramatic declines of 30.6 percent and 33.1 percent respectively (Johnson points out, however, that Ebony and Jet both published one fewer issue during the quarter compared to last year).


"Time Inc.'s Essence, meanwhile, reported the smallest decline: -0.3 percent."

Johnson Rice said in a statement Monday, "Anne has been a significant asset to our company and led key, corporate-wide initiatives for EBONY, JET and Fashion Fair. During Anne's tenure, we underwent significant restructuring and reorganization of the company. Her contributions have helped to position the company for the future."


For her part, Sempowski Ward said in the release, "It has been a phenomenal privilege to be the first member from outside of the Johnson family to serve as president and COO of both the publishing and cosmetics divisions of Johnson Publishing Company.

"I am grateful for Linda Johnson Rice's confidence in entrusting me with such a significant responsibility. Working with so many dedicated people has been personally and professionally rewarding and I will miss them dearly. At the same time, I am excited about joining my husband, Kevin, in our business-consulting firm. With the birth of our son in May, this is the ideal time for me to chart a new course."


Rogers is one of Chicago's movers and shakers. She has a Harvard MBA and has been an Illinois Lottery director and president of Peoples Energy Corp., as well as president of social networking for Allstate Insurance Co.

She left the White House "under the cloud of the November 2009 Salahis gatecrasher fiasco at the White House state dinner for India's prime minister, and complaints that she kept too-high a profile," as reported when she joined Johnson Publishing.


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