Former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman is putting his money where his mouth is as he recently won a $14 million bid for Ebony Media Operations LLC.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Bridgeman Sports and Media, the company owned by the retired Milwaukee Bucks forward, emerged as the winner for Ebony Media’s assets by a bankruptcy court in Houston on Friday (Dec. 18).
The legacy Black media company was forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July after defaulting on more than $10 million in loans per its creditors. In September, the bankruptcy was converted to a voluntary Chapter 11 reorganization.
Bridgeman, 67, says that despite the recent financial troubles Ebony has been experiencing, he believes that he can return it to profitability with “the right ideas and the right execution.”
For Bridgeman, he says that it’s most important that Ebony returns to a place of prominence in American culture. In 1945, the magazine was launched by Chicago-based Johnson Publishing as an influential monthly lifestyle magazine that documented the African American experience for over seven decades.
“Nothing is ever easy, but this would be, I think, a labor of love,” shared Bridgeman.
After retiring from the NBA in 1987, Bridgeman went on to become a successful fast-food restaurant franchisee following his 12-year basketball career with the Milwaukee Bucks.
In 2017, he sold his restaurant interests and launched Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Co., a Kansas-based facility whose distribution territory includes Southern Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri.
No stranger in his attempts to purchase a magazine franchise, Bridgeman ended his efforts to buy Sports Illustrated after Meredith ultimately sold the magazine to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million.
“Ebony kind of stood for Black excellence, showing people doing positive things that could benefit everyone,” said Bridgeman. “It just made you feel good knowing that’s where they’re publishing all the stories in the magazine.”
As a native of East Chicago, Bridgemen says that he always viewed Johnson Publishing’s former headquarters located at 820 S. Michigan Ave, with a sense of pride during his visits to Chicago.
As Ebony attempted to remain afloat, Texas-based equity firm, CVG Group purchased the magazine and its sister publication, Jet, in a deal that included roughly $4.3 million in cash.
Recently, the firm ceased print publication of Ebony last year as they’ve struggled during the digital age, and faced lawsuits brought by former employees and freelancers over unpaid compensation.
In 2018, Ebony landed an agreement to pay dozens of freelancers nearly $80,000 to settle the lawsuits. Executives from the company have yet to make a statement on the most recent deal.