High Times has sold its LGBTQ publications to Equal Entertainment for an undisclosed amount. The publications include Out.com/ Magazine, Advocate.com/ Magazine, Out Traveler Magazine, Plus Magazine, and Pride.com and given a new name for the company Equal Pride. According to the press release, “The acquisition returns the company to LBGTQ+ majority ownership and creates the largest LGBTQ+ – owned media, digital, TV, and entertainment company in the country with the majority of Equal Pride employees also identifying as LGBTQ+, women, and/or people of color.” The newly named Equal Pride will be run by Mark Berryhill who becomes Chief Executive Officer.
“Our combined company will be the premier home for LGBTQ+ people — and increasingly women and people of color creators, storytellers, journalists, and business people who want to have an impact through their work with one of the most diverse group of media and digital brands in the world,” CEO Mark Berryhill said.
Technically, it was Oreva Capital, the Los Angeles-based investment firm that owns High Times that backed a management-led buyout of Here Publishing, which owned the titles “The Advocate” and “Out” in 2017. The price was not disclosed at that time and the group of titles was rebranded as Pride Media.
Then the trouble began. Out found it difficult to retain editorial staff and a revolving door of executives came and went. Staff cuts began and amid the layoffs, more freelance writers came on. However, they began getting stiffed and filed a lawsuit in order to get paid. The writers wrote at the time, “OUT.com saw a spike in traffic from 691,000 unique views in September to about 1.5 million in December 2018. OUT’s digital ad revenue has grown 48% year over year. All revenue for Pride Media was estimated to be at just under $5.8 million for 2018 and projected to increase 26% this year. Pride Media and its investors have plenty of money to pay the outstanding sum of invoices — a drop in the bucket compared to the projected $7.2 million in ad revenue Pride Media is projected to earn this year, according to the WWD story. Clearly, profits were and are being made.”
Then the company was accused of not paying a publishing partner PinkNews in 2019. That case finally got resolved by Judge Analisa Torres who awarded PinkNews $49,998.84 on May 21, 2021. In January 2022, PinkNews asked for its legal fees to be covered but was denied the request.
In addition to problems paying its bills, Oreva and High Times owner Adam Levin was outed for supporting Republican politicians who had opposed gay rights. Levin countered with his support of politicians who voted in favor of gay rights, but nonetheless said he would stop those contributions. Despite those promises, LGBTQ Nation reported that Levin continued to support anti-gay politicians and couldn’t verify his financial support to pro-gay politicians.
High Times recently lost a court case regarding back rent owed on a planned dispensary space in San Francisco to the tune of $5 million. So no matter how much the company received for this sale, it likely came at a good time.
The magazine titles may have struggled to find an audience as gay and trans rights seemed to bloom under the Obama administration. However, the community is back under attack in the culture wars. Most recently the Texas GOP called homosexuality abnormal, sparking fresh fears of discrimination. The gay community may begin seeking out these publications again in order to inform of new legal attacks.
In addition to the other named executives, Michael Kelley will become Chairman and President of Global Growth and Development reporting to Berryhill. Diane Anderson-Minshall, the first female CEO of Pride Media, will retain C-suite responsibilities as the Chief Global and Development Officer of Equal Pride focused on editorial brands and international audience expansion. Rounding out the leadership, Joe Lovejoy, will become Chief Financial Officer and Stuart Brockington has been upped to EVP of Sales and Partnerships, effective immediately. Equal Pride 2022 clients include: General Motors, Google Pixel, Gilead, Capital One, Disney/Hulu, TikTok, McDonald’s, Molson Coors, NBCU, J&J and many others.
“We could not be more excited about the opportunity to join forces with Equal,” Diane Anderson-Minshall said as she assumes a role in leadership with expanded duties on global content growth. “This combination will not only create an unparalleled scale with the most diverse and engaged audiences for advertisers as well as other strategic revenue opportunities, but it will also bring together some of our community’s top talent, the most popular media brands, and the most impactful content in the world. This is the beginning of our most exciting chapter.”