By KEITH J. KELLY
Vibe Ventures hopes that the magic is back now that it has a new ownership team led by basketball legend Magic Johnson and supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle -- who are pumping an estimated $12 million into the ailing company in exchange for a majority stake.
The current owner, InterMedia Partners, a private-equity firm headed by Leo Hindery that took over in a foreclosure sale in late 2009, is going to stay involved. "We feel we can take it to a whole other level," Johnson told The Post.
The former Los Angles Lakers star, who will serve as chairman of Vibe Ventures, was pegged by Forbes in 2009 as one of the five wealthiest African-Americans in the US, with an estimated worth of $500 million.
In addition to the flagship Vibe magazine, Vibe Ventures includes Uptown magazine and related digital ventures and the rights to 1,100 episodes of dance show "Soul Train."
"We plan to find a way to build the 'Soul Train' brand and get it back on the air," said Johnson, who also promised to promote everything from music awards and live performances to business seminars and overseas licensing.
Johnson said the Yucaipa/Johnson Fund, formed from Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. and Magic Johnson Enterprises, has about $550 million available for future deals in all fields. He said he is on the prowl for more acquisitions in the urban entertainment and media arena.
"When advertisers and marketers want to get that urban eyeball, we want to be the company that they come to," said Johnson.
Vibe once jockeyed with The Source for a lead role covering hip-hop culture, but The Source was rocked by financial turmoil and forced to sell to new owners. With yesterday's deal, Vibe will get its fourth owner in its 18 years of publishing. The Wicks Group, which purchased the magazine for $35 million in 2005 from Miller Publishing, defaulted on its loan from Capital Source Bank in 2009 and forced a temporary shutdown.
Hindery's InterMedia Group took over and revived the magazine later that year. It plans to publish six issues of Vibe and six issues of Uptown this year. Robert Miller, part of the original Vibe launch team and a past owner, is involved as chairman of the Vibe and Uptown Magazine Group.