Ulysses Bridgeman — aka Junior Bridgeman — may not be one of the most famous players to ever grace a basketball court.
However, that really doesn’t matter because it’s what he did after his time in the NBA was over that really made an impact.
At the peak of his career, Junior Bridgeman made $350,000 in a season. And though that’s certainly a respectable salary, it pales in comparison to what modern-day NBA greats like Michael Jordan and LeBron James make.
And while there are many NBA players who lose all their money after they stop playing — with the most infamous example being, perhaps, Dennis Rodman (though, in fairness, it wasn’t his fault) — Bridgeman flew in the face of conventional wisdom and, instead, became a multi-millionaire in his own right.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, he amassed a net worth of $600 million after becoming one of the most successful fast-food franchisees in history. He then turned his fast-food success into soft drink success — and, today, even owns two of the most legendary Black media brands in history.
Let’s take a look at how Junior Bridgeman makes his money.
Editorial note: The net worth listed in this piece is a speculative estimate drawn from a variety of online sources. Additionally, the inflation numbers are also speculative estimates provided by InflationCalculator.com and do not necessarily reflect actual dollar values.
According to the NBA’s official website, Junior Bridgeman — who played for the Milwaukee Bucks for most of his career — had a high score of 32 points in one game, 12 field goals, and 8 free throws.
At his peak, Bridgeman made about $350,000 per season, per Celebrity Net Worth. When adjusted for inflation, the most he made per season was about $900,000.
Fast Food Franchises
While he was in the NBA, Junior Bridgeman learned the proverbial ropes about becoming a fast-food restaurant franchisee. According to BizJournals, he invested in a series of Wendy’s restaurants after he retired from the league, confident in his knowledge of the business model of franchises.
The outlet also reports that Bridgeman owned a series of Chili’s restaurants in Wisconsin, as well.
Bridgeman eventually became one of the largest franchisees in the country.
In 2016, he sold off his restaurants to become a distributor for The Coca-Cola Company.
Just one year after becoming a Coca-Cola distributor, Junior Bridgeman expanded his reach in the business to become an international businessman, according to a separate report for BizJournals. In 2017, Bridgeman teamed up with Larry Tanenbaum — a Canadian businessman — to acquire Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada (CCRC). The merger reportedly closed in Q2 of 2018.
Today, Junior Bridgeman is the president and CEO of Coca-Cola Heartland, which services the Kansas, Missouri, and Southern Illinois territories, per the company’s official website.
Ebony & Jet Magazines
In 2020, Ebony and Jet Magazines — which have been Black media mainstays for decades — filed for bankruptcy protection.
As AfroTech previously reported, Ebony and Jet filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection — which is when assets must be liquidated to satisfy debts — after it was revealed that they’d defaulted on more than $10 million in loans (The bankruptcy was later converted to a Chapter 11 reorganization).
And in December of that same year, Bridgeman — who formed Bridgeman Sports & Media to purchase the media properties for that very purpose — successfully purchased the magazines for $14 million, according to The Chicago Tribune.