Following The Truth About Essence Medium story penned by anonymous women writers, CEO of Essence Communications, Richelieu Dennis has stepped down.
In the Medium piece, the writers called for the resignation of Dennis, along with other key executives. The writers called on major sponsors to see the resignation go through.
Dennis is the founder of Shea Moisture and Sundial Brands and purchased the magazine from TIME in 2018, which made the publication and the parent company 100% Black-owned.
The statement, issued on Tuesday, stated Dennis will step down, a review of business practices was underway and interim CEO will be Carolina Wanga.
“Out of an abundance of caution and an unwavering commitment to transparency, ESSENCE is in the process of hiring law firms and other independent external experts to assess and review the company’s policies and practices and conduct comprehensive employee interviews as well as independently review any harassment, discrimination, retaliation or other behaviors or issues that may adversely impact workplace culture.”
In The Truth About Essence, Dennis’ leadership is described as a “surface-level commitment to Black women is driven by greed and a debaucherous sexual appetite.” Allegations included a history of sleeping with women on the Sundial staff and open sexual harassment at private company events.
ESSENCE Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks, who stepped down this past March, was accused of telling employees they could leave over pay raises. Additional allegations against the leadership included intimidation and fear of staff members getting pregnant as it could potentially cost them their positions.
In response, ESSENCE denied the accusations in an online official statement.
“When faced with challenging moments, we believe that truth and clarity are foremost, and after taking the time to connect with our teams and engage with each other, we want to be very clear about one thing,” the statement read. “It is extremely important to us that we foster a safe, transparent and respectful workspace for everyone and that we expect that from everyone – not just those who work for us, but also those who work with us.”
In the statement announce Dennis’ decision, ESSENCE states they “remain committed to fostering a safe, transparent and respectful workplace for everyone.”