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Retired NBA Player and Former Fast-Food Mogul Ulysses ‘Junior’ Bridgeman Wins $14M Bid to Buy Bankrupt Ebony Media

The iconic Black media company Ebony Media Operations LLC may have found a new owner after bankruptcy. 

Former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman would reportedly be buying the legacy company after winning a $14 million bid for it in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

On Friday, Dec. 18, Bridgeman’s company Bridgeman Sports and Media was announced as the successful bidder for Ebony’s Media’s assets by a Houston bankruptcy court. The report also notes that Bridgeman’s offer was the only serious proposal received by the liquidated publisher. 

Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman and Theo Ratliff during OverTime Magazine’s OT X Awards at Omni Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. (Photo by Frank Mullen/WireImage)

In a statement released to the Chicago media outlet, the retired Milwaukee Bucks forward said he believed he could return the defunct magazine to profitability with “the right ideas and the right execution.” The 67-year-old’s goal is to bring Ebony back to a place of prominence in American culture. Ebony magazine quickly became a pillar of Black media after releasing its first issue in November 1945. 

The purchase of Ebony is just the latest installment in Bridgeman’s investment portfolio. Following his retirement from the NBA in 1987, he became a successful fast-food restaurant franchisee, eventually owning some 360 restaurants. In 2017, he sold those same stores and launched Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Co., a Kansas-based facility whose distribution territory includes Kansas, Missouri, and southern Illinois.

When asked about his view on his latest venture with Ebony, considering the publication’s highly delicate state, Bridgeman said, “Nothing is ever easy, but this would be, I think, a labor of love.” 

In July 2020, Ebony, which had been struggling significantly during the turn of the digital era, was forced into filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy by Parkview Capital Credit and other creditors after defaulting on more than $10 million in loans. The bankruptcy was later changed to a voluntary Chapter 11 reorganization in September. The move came just four after Johnson Publishing sold Ebony and online-based Jet magazine to an Austin, Texas-based private equity firm. 

However, news of Ebony’s final curtain call came just weeks after its CEO was fired and removed from the board. The company said it would investigate financial transactions set forth by the former head, which were allegedly made without board or lender approval.

Ebony’s final print issues were released in 2019, leaving behind as its assets mostly intellectual property, including the Ebony and Jet trademarks, the related domain names and websites, and specific legacy published materials.

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