Over the years, basketball legend Magic Johnson has invested his considerable resources in everything from movie theaters in urban communities to his former Los Angeles Lakers to dozens of Starbucks locations catering to inner city African-Americans. Having divested himself of both his holdings in Starbucks and the Lakers late last year, Johnson is moving on to media, and in a huge way. Along with super-investor Ron Burkle, Johnson's Magic Johnson Enterprises has put forth $12 million to become a majority stakeholder in Vibe Ventures, the company behind Vibe magazine, Vibe.com, Uptown magazine, and Soul Train.
Vibe has been on shaky financial ground for years now, ever since the Wicks Group, who owned the company from 2005 to 2009, defaulted on their loan, forcing the magazine to shutter for several months. A company called InterMedia Partners came and purchased Vibe out of foreclosure in late 2009, and it will now maintain a minority ownership of the brand.
Despite all Vibe’s problems, Johnson hopes to take the brand to a “whole other level” in the coming years. Besides revitalizing the print magazine and the Vibe website, Johnson even wants to bring back Soul Train, the televised music and dance show that peaked in the '70s and '80s and went off the air for good in 2006.
"We plan to find a way to build the Soul Train brand and get it back on the air," Johnson said. "When advertisers and marketers want to get that urban eyeball, we want to be the company that they come to.”
To be perfectly honest, we think trying to bring back Soul Train is going to be difficult if not impossible—the fact of the matter is that people don’t celebrate music and dance the same way they did in the '70s. Nor is the live-music aspect of the program as relevant as it was when entire funk bands took the stage. Imagine how stale a Soul Train line would look accompanied by a Soulja Boy hook and you’ll start to catch our drift.
Good luck to Johnson, but he’ll really have to work his magic to achieve all his Vibe Venture goals.
Image: FRANCIS SPECKER