Ebony Media Operations LLC plans to sell its business to an investment group led by former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman for about $14 million, the only serious offer received by the bankrupt publisher of Black magazines.

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.

In June 2016, Texas-based private equity firm CVG Group announced that it had acquired Ebony Media—which includes both Ebony and Jet magazines—and that it would be managing the operations of both going forward.   However, since then, CVG has consistently had financial troubles, including failing to pay employees and freelancers. 

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.

In fall 2019, Linda Johnson Rice, heir to Johnson Publishing, Co. the founding company of the Ebony empire, resigned from the board of CVG Group.  Despite selling the historic Magazine to the company, she wrote in her resignation letter, “the last three years did not result in what I envisioned when the transition occurred, and because of that, I have made the decision to move on.’

Ebony stopped publishing in print in 2019.

Junior

Bridgeman played 12 years in the National Basketball Association (NBA)–10 years for the Milwaukee Bucks and two years for the Los Angeles Clippers. He is the founder and former CEO of Manna Inc.

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.

Bridgeman, who retired in 1987 after 12 seasons in the NBA, is the owner of Kansas City based Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company, which has distribution territory for the brand that includes Missouri, Kansas, and Southern Illinois   He initially built his company – estimated at a worth of $600 million – in fast-food restaurant franchisee. At one point, he owned over 160 restaurants before he sold them in 2017 to launch Heartland. 

This isn’t Bridgeman’s first attempt at acquiring a publication.  In 2019 he unsuccessfully tried to purchase Sports Illustrated. This time around, however, it appears that the 67-year-old has emerged triumphant. Based on his track record alone, Bridgeman might be the one to finally correct course.

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