Ex-NBA player buys bankrupt Ebony Media

ex nba player buys bankrupt ebony media

Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, who played with the Milwaukee Bucks, placed the bid in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, said Leonard Simon, an attorney representing Ebony. Simon said a judge approved the sale at a hearing this afternoon.

Bridgeman, who also did a stint with the Los Angeles Clippers, is not new to bidding on media companies. In 2018, the East Chicago, Ind., native made a bid to buy Sports Illustrated, but dropped the pursuit last year.

In 2016, Forbes put Bridgeman on its list of highest-paid retired athletes, estimating his 2015 earnings to be $32 million. After he retired from the NBA in 1987, he got into the restaurant franchise business and started building Bridgeman Foods. Forbes estimated he owned more than 450 franchises in 2016, including Wendy’s, Chili’s, Fazoli’s and Blaze Pizza.

Bridgeman sold his franchise empire not long after landing on Forbes’ list. Now he serves as CEO of Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling, which operates a Coca-Cola production facility in Kansas and 17 distribution facilities, including in Illinois. He is also part-owner of Coca-Cola Canada Bottling, which operates five production facilities and more than 50 sales and distribution centers. Bridgeman could not be reached for comment.

The Ebony bid, first submitted in October, came from Kentucky-based Bridgeman Sports & Media, according to court documents filed last week. Ebony Media first filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July, shortly after its former CEO was removed from the board.

Though its legacy has been saddled with legal and ownership battles in recent years, Ebony magazine was an icon for decades. Its journalists and photographers chronicled Black culture in America for more than 70 years, covering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement and more.

Johnson Publishing, which launched Ebony, was at one time the most powerful Black-owned company in the country. 

But in the 1990s, the appeal of magazines began to wane, and Johnson Publishing faced other issues. The nearly 80-year-old company, which also published Jet magazine, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2019. By then, the Ebony and Jet titles had been sold to Texas investment firm CVG Group. 

Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of Ebony founder John Johnson, served as Ebony Media CEO for about a year, stepping down in early 2018. She declined to comment for this story.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Bridgeman would likely be Ebony’s next owner.