Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Magic” Johnson isn’t the reflective type. He tends not to dwell on the past or even second-guess the decision he made 10 minutes ago. So when asked if he often thinks about that chilly November morning in 1991 when he stood onstage at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles and announced to the world that he’d contracted HIV, the former point guard flashes his signature smile and shakes his head: no. “I don’t look back that much at all, and I don’t spend a lot of time on regrets,” says Johnson. “I do regret putting my family and my wife, Cookie, through that entire experience and having to deal with certain things. But that’s really the only regret I have.”  Instead, the basketball legend turned business executive keeps his mind focused on one, profound thought: living. To the fame he earned as a Los Angeles Laker has been added the triumph of the survivor who beat the odds, and it may be the greater legacy of the two.Up at 4 a.m. each workday, Johnson jogs five miles to his office in Beverly Hills, where he oversees Magic Johnson Enterprises, which operates movie theaters, Starbucks stores, and other businesses in long-neglected urban neighborhoods. Meanwhile, he’s actively involved in his namesake foundation’s efforts around HIV/AIDS and education, and works closely with the Obama administration on community-development issues. And when he finally gets home from the office after a brisk walk, he takes more business calls until 9 p.m.

Johnson teamed up with Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies earlier this year to invest in Vibe Holdings.  He became chairman of the New York-based company that owns Vibe,, Uptown and Uptown Professional magazines, the Soul Train TV show and library, as well as the Vibe Lifestyle Network, a collection of some 25 websites.
“Magic Johnson has a track record of success in developing businesses in the urban market. His credibility, resume and his knowledge in this space opens a lot of doors,” said Miller, chairman of the Vibe and Uptown Magazine group.
The infusion of capital will fuel expansion.  “This will give us a lot of flexibility to grow our businesses and the opportunity to acquire or invest in others in the urban media space,” said Miller.
Though Johnson will not be involved in the day-to-day operations, when it comes to setting strategy and direction, he’ll be the go-to guy, much as he was for the Lakers.
“In addition to participating in, creating and agreeing to the big picture, at any point he will also have four or five initiatives to focus on,” Miller added.
Johnson’s moxie could move the needle for Vibe Holdings, which in the last year has found its sea legs.  After advertising sales fell more than 40 percent in June of 2009, Vibe magazine shut down.  Six months later it relaunched, under the new ownership of Uptown Media and private equity firm InterMedia Partners.
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