JUNIOR BRIDGEMAN NBA

Former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman  has emerged as the likely next owner of legacy Black media company Ebony, after bidding $14 million for it in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Bridgeman Sports and Media, a company owned by the retired Milwaukee Bucks forward, was announced as the successful bidder for Ebony Media’s assets by a Houston bankruptcy court on Friday.

The sale order is expected to be approved by a federal bankruptcy judge as of December 22nd, according to Leonard Simon, a Houston attorney representing Ebony Media.

EBONY MAGAZINE LOGO

 

Ebony, the legacy Black monthly lifestyle magazine, was forced in Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July by its creditors after defaulting on more than $10 million in loans. The bankruptcy was converted to a voluntary Chapter 11 reorganization in September.

Bridgeman, who spent most of his 12-year basketball career with the Milwaukee Bucks, became a successful fast food restaurant franchisee after retiring from the NBA in 1987. He sold his restaurant interests and in 2017 launched Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company, a Kansas-based facility whose distribution territory includes Kansas, Missouri, and Southern Illinois.

In 2019, Bridgeman dropped efforts to buy Sports Illustrated from Meredith, which subsequently sold the magazine to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million.

Chicago-based Johnson Publishing launched Ebony in 1945, an influential monthly lifestyle magazine that documented the African-American experience for more than seven decades.

In 2016 Johnson Publishing sold Ebony and its sister publication, Jet, to Texas-based private equity firm CVG Group in a deal that included about $4.3 million in cash.

Struggling during the digital age, the magazine’s woes continued under CVG Group, which ceased print publication of Ebony last year and faced lawsuits brought by freelancers and former employees over unpaid compensation. In 2018, Ebony agreed to pay dozens of freelancers nearly $80,000 to settle their lawsuit.

The Ebony purchase originally was financed by Parkview Capital Credit, which issued CVG about $10 million in loans. When Ebony defaulted on those loans, Parkview filed in July to force the publisher into an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy, claiming it was owed $11.9 million.

CVG Group owns 80% of Ebony Media, while Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of Ebony founder John Johnson, retains a 20% interest the company.

Michael Gibson, co-founder of CVG Group and an Ebony Media board member, declined to comment.

During its heyday, Ebony’s reporters and photographers followed Martin Luther King Jr. from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott to the 1965 Selma march, culminating in the assassinated civil rights leader’s 1968 funeral.

This year, as the Black Lives Matter movement resonated nationwide, Ebony’s website has been mostly dormant as the company sought to emerge from bankruptcy.

 

Content for this story originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune

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