Retired NBA player turned successful entrepreneur Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman purchased Ebony magazine and its sister publication Jet in US Bankruptcy Court this week, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
Bridgeman, 67, who purchased Ebony and Jet through his Louisville, Ky.-based Bridgeman Sports and Media company, said he was inspired by seeing the success of a Black business in his hometown growing up.
“When you look at Ebony, you look at the history not just for Black people, but of the United States,” Bridgeman told the Tribune. “I think it’s something that a generation is missing and we want to bring that back as much as we can.”
Once a pillar of Black business, founded by John H. Johnson in 1945, Ebony enjoyed decades of popularity before declining advertising revenues and the internet caused it to fall on hard times.
In 2016, Ebony and its sister publication Jet was sold to the private equity fund CVG Group based in Houston, Texas. But by 2018, Ebony had to settle an $80,000 lawsuit with dozens of freelancers who’d never received payment for contributions to the magazine and website, further damaging the brand.
By 2019, the magazine had ceased publication and its historic photography archive was put up for sale. The collection of four million photos was ultimately purchased jointly by four foundations that donated it to the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute, ensuring that it would be made available to the public, per the New York Times.
After defaulting on $10 million in loans, in July, CVG Group was forced into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy ultimately converted to a Chapter 11 reorganization. Bridgeman was able to make a successful bid for the brands this week. Leonard Simon, a Houston attorney representing Ebony Media Group, said the sale is likely to be approved by Tuesday, per the Tribune.
Bridgeman played in the NBA for 12 seasons, with stints at the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. He also served as president of the National Basketball Players association from 1985-1988/
After Bridgeman retired from professional basketball with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1987, he went on to success as a franchisee of Wendy’s and Chili’s restaurants, ultimately owning a total of 450 franchises with an estimated net worth of $600 million. He later founded Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company, a bottler for Coca-Cola that covers distribution in Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Kansas where it’s headquartered.