Nashville, TN (TN Tribune)
A bid to buy Ebony Media Holdings by a company headed by former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman was approved Tuesday by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, a court spokesperson told Journal-isms.
Bridgeman — who starting in the 1970s played for 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and two with the Los Angeles Clippers — had bid about $14 million, Becky Yerak reported Monday for The Wall Street Journal.
“Bridgeman said he expects Ebony to remain a digital publication, with occasional special print issues,” Robert Channick reported Tuesday in the Chicago Tribune. “He said the business plan is still being formulated and that his children will be responsible for managing the company.
“ ‘When you look at Ebony, you look at the history not just for Black people, but of the United States,’ Bridgeman said. ‘I think it’s something that a generation is missing and we want to bring that back as much as we can.’ ”
The entrepreneur told Channick, “Nothing is ever easy, but this would be, I think, a labor of love.”
Channick wrote, “Ebony was forced into 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.”
Yerak also reported that Bridgeman “said his daughter, Eden, would be active in the business, which would bring in an outside manager to help oversee it.”
Yerak continued, “Last July the owner of its namesake magazine was forced into bankruptcy by Parkview Capital Credit and other creditors that said they wanted to take over the publication, which has chronicled Black culture for 75 years but has fallen on hard times.
“The involuntary bankruptcy came weeks after Ebony’s main shareholder was fired as chief executive and removed from the board. The company said it would investigate financial transactions he had made, allegedly without board or lender approval.
“Ebony stopped publishing in print in 2019. The company’s assets consist mostly of intellectual property, including Ebony and Jet trademarks, the related domain names and websites, and certain legacy published materials,” wrote Yerak. A consortium of foundations led by the J. Paul Getty Trust last year planned to buy the historic Ebony photo archives for $30 million, with plans to donate the expansive collection and make it available for broad public access.
“In October, Bridgeman Sports & Media LLC was named the lead bidder subject to better and higher offers in a process supervised by U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston” reported Yerak, [PDF]
Channick added, “Despite Ebony’s recent financial troubles, Bridgeman, 67, said he believes he can return it to profitability with ‘the right ideas and the right execution.’ . . .
“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 Co., 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. . . .”