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Is Magic Buying Johnson Publishing?

*According to published reports, Magic Johnson is in talks to purchase Johnson Publishing Co., owner of Ebony and Jet, magazines.

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

Johnson, 50, would fold the publisher into Magic Johnson Enterprises, said a person with knowledge of the discussions. The company he founded while a player with the Los Angeles Lakers has partnerships with Starbucks Corp., 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. and T.G.I. Friday’s Inc. Ad revenue at Ebony declined 38 percent to $35.5 million last year on a 39 percent drop in ad pages, according to Publishers Information Bureau.

Johnson Publishing’s Chicago headquarters would be included in the sale, said the person, who declined to be identified because talks are private. A purchase may require satisfying liens placed on the building by a creditor, the person said.

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

Johnson Publishing was founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson, Linda Johnson Rice’s father. Ebony, the monthly magazine of features, the newsweekly Jet and the defunct Negro Digest chronicled African-American life when mainstream media paid little attention.