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Did Oni Press fire two of its owners? Inside the complicated ownership and leadership of the comics publisher

Insight on who really owns Oni Press
2017 Oni Press ID10T festival print by Robert Wilson IV
Robert Wilson IV (Oni Press)

Who owns Oni Press? That might seem like an easy question given Polarity LTD is their parent company and has been since 2019, but it turns out it isn't.

Polarity is an owner of Oni Press since a deal struck in 2019, but they're not the only owners. James Lucas Jones and Charlie Chu, who owned a portion of the company prior to the Oni/Polarity deal in 2019, still own a portion of the company.

Yes, that's despite Jones and Chu being terminated from the company in late June and us, at the time, describing them as "former co-owners". That's our mistake.

The Oni Press owners

According to multiple sources we've talked to in the last three days, Jones and Chu remain minority owners of Oni Press - or rather, its company Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. The duo acquired a co-ownership stake well before Polarity became involved with Oni, and retained ownership through the business deals.

On legal papers, Oni Press is no longer the company name, but is now the leading imprint of the Oni Lion Forge Publishing Group. Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group (and the Oni Press imprint) is largely owned by Polarity, with Jones and Chu owning the remaining, minority stake.

From what we've learned, Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group is run by a five-person board comprised of three Polarity staff (owner/founder/CEO David Steward II, president Ed Hamati, and VP of portfolio operations & executions Rick Johnson) and two legacy Oni employees/co-owners (Jones and Chu). We haven't been able to discern if one member has more voting power than others, but if all things are equal, then Polarity would have three votes to Jones and Chu's block of two.

(In 2019 as part of the Polarity deal, Oni Press co-founder Joe Nozemack segued from president to member of this leadership board, as well serving as an advisor. Popverse has confirmed that Nozemack is no longer on the board.)

Who runs Oni Press?

Inside Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group, senior vice president of games and operations Steve Ellis has become the senior-most employee, acting as, what some employees tell Popverse, an unofficial chief operating officer.

Popverse has confirmed that for at least the past 12 months, the aforementioned Rick Johnson from Polarity is the primary liaison with Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. Although the company's plans for a booth and a 25th anniversary celebration of Oni at Comic-Con International: San Diego were cancelled, Johnson was in attendance at the event taking private meetings about the company's future.

Popverse has reached out to Polarity and Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group for comment, but has not received a response.

Come back to Popverse for more on the ongoing story of Oni.

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About the Author

Chris Arrant avatar

Chris Arrant

Editor-in-Chief

Chris Arrant is the Popverse's Editor-in-Chief. He has written about pop culture for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, Newsarama, TOKYOPOP, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. (He/him)

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