Edmonton

Venture Publishing folds following founder's death

'Due to the tragic passing of our CEO, Ruth Kelly, we are closing the business'

Ruth kelly publisher

Ruth Kelly was a publisher and editor-in-chief of Alberta Venture and Alberta Oil magazines. (John Ulan)

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An Alberta publishing empire is folding following the death of its founder, Ruth Kelly.

Venture Publishing was responsible for publications including Alberta Innovators, Open Mind, Alberta Oil, and its flagship business publication, Venture Magazine.

Other publications included Tracks & Treads, Grip, Leap, Signature, WE, PSAC and Hard Hat.

The company's CEO and editor-in-chief Kelly died in June. She was 60 years old.

No one at the magazine was available to comment, but an answering machine message at Venture's now-vacant offices confirms that Kelly's death was the catalyst for the magazine's sudden closure. 

"Due to the tragic passing of our CEO, Ruth Kelly, we are closing the business," says a recording on the Venture office phone.

"We appreciate your support at this difficult time."

The Edmonton-based publishing house was founded in 1997, when Kelly purchased the magazine from the provincial government for $100.

From a single publication, Venture would go on to employ hundreds of photographers and writers; its glossy publications earning Kelly acclaim as an editorial leader with a fierce ambition to succeed.

Despite its success, the downturn in the Alberta economy on the heels of plummeting oil prices — and a continued decline in readership — took its toll on Venture.

The magazine empire struggled for months.

According to the Canadian Media Guild freelance branch, the magazine often failed to pay its contributors and owed thousands of dollars in outstanding contracts.

In early November 2016, the guild sent a letter to Venture Publishing, demanding that Ruth pay 14 contributors nearly $40,000 in outstanding pay.

'To us she was Ruth'

Kelly's influence went far beyond the publishing world. She was known for her charitable work and willingness to mentor others.

Kelly was recognized as a Global Woman of Vision in 1998, and a YWCA Woman of Distinction in the entrepreneur category in 2003. She was named the Allard chair of business at MacEwan School of Business in 2005, the same year she chaired the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

She earned an honorary business degree from NAIT and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013.

In a statement issued shortly after Kelly's death, her family asked for privacy as they grieved a "profound loss."

"To us she was Ruth, a woman we loved, but to Albertans she was a distinguished business woman, a community leader, a philanthropist, and a role model," read the statement.

"We ask the media and public for privacy at this time, as we mourn the loss of this extraordinary woman."

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