In a blockbuster deal of mid-sized publishers, Lion Forge parent Polarity is merging Lion Forge with Oni Press, with the Oni team, minus founder Joe Nozemack, running the combined publishing operations from Oni home town Portland, Oregon. Polarity will own a majority share of the new combined entity.
There will be substantial personnel moves associated with the merger:
- Oni founder and President Joe Nozemack is stepping down from his President role and will serve in a board and advisory role.
- Oni Publisher James Lucas Jones will be President and Publisher of the combined entity;
- Oni VP Creative and Business Development Charlie Chu will be EVP of Creative and Business Development.
- Oni Editor-in-Chief Sarah Gaydos will be Editor-in-Chief of the new company.
- Oni Director of Sales Margot Wood will also be part of the combined entity management team.
No word on the fate of the Lion Forge employees in related positions, which include a top editorial staff assembled over the past few years, Vice President Sales, Marketing, and Business Development Rich Johnson, and Vice President Marketing, Merchandise & Product Development Syndee Barwick. Lion Forge head count was reduced by layoffs last fall (see “Lion Forge Restructuring”). Oni also went through a restructuring in 2018 (see “Oni Reorganizes”).
Polarity was organized to handle this kind of transaction by Lion Forge CEO David Steward II last year (see “Steward Reveals Lion Forge Parent, Team”). Polarity President Edward Hamati orchestrated the deal. “Over the last year, we at Polarity have been significantly focused on review and enhancement of the portfolio,” he said. “We put a premium on alignment of talent and objectives. We were very impressed with the culture established at Oni, which continues with James, Charlie, Sarah (Gaydos) and Margot (Wood) leading the team.”
Publisher James Lucas Jones echoed the focus on culture. “We want to build on our strength as a go-to destination for creators, grow our culture as an employee-first organization, and reinforce our commitment to our industry partners and friends,” Jones said in a statement. “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, where the business of comics and graphic novels is rapidly evolving, this merger is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our two companies to pool our resources for one goal: to create the finest comics and graphic novels for everyone.”
Oni founder Nozemack reflected on his legacy. “Oni Press was started with the mission to publish comics and graphic novels that would appeal to a diverse group of readers and broaden the audience for the medium,” he said. “Twenty years later, I couldn't be prouder of the books we've published and the wide array of new readers and creators who have joined our community. It was obvious from our first meeting that the Polarity/Lion Forge team had these same passions and goals as the Oni Press team. And I have complete faith that the pairing of the two is going to continue that mission to make sure that there is an authentic and inspiring comic book for any and everyone who wants to join the comic-book faithful.”
This is the second founder sale of a majority share in a longtime indy comics publisher (and the second founder sale in Portland!) in the past few months; Dark Horse Comics founder Mike Richardson brought in an investor last fall (Richardson remains active).