Former NBA basketball-player-turned-entrepreneur Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman, is poised to add the title “media tycoon” to his already impressive résumé with a planned $150 million acquisition of Sports Illustrated from Meredith, which acquired magazine publisher Time Inc. last year.
If a deal comes to pass, Bridgeman will have beaten out a group headed by Joshua Pollack that includes Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Hollywood producer Peter Guber, who is a part-owner of the Golden State Warriors.
Junior Bridgeman is now the owner of Heartland Coca Cola Bottling Co., with distribution in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.
Bridgeman may be teaming up with an even deeper-pocketed partner in Canadian billionaire Larry Tanenbaum and his family’s Toronto-based investment arm, the Kilmer Group.
They recently purchased Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada from the Coca-Cola Co. Terms of that deal were not disclosed, but the Globe and Mail estimated it as an $800 million deal.
Tanenbuam, said to be worth $1.5 billion, is huge in Toronto sports and media holdings. He’s chairman and part owner of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and played a big role in bringing the NBA’s Raptors to Toronto, where he is also a part owner. Kilmer owns the Scotiabank Arena, where both teams play. And to round out the roster, he’s involved in ownership of the soccer team Toronto FC.
reported earlier this month that Bridgeman is in the lead to snag the winning bid and indicated a deal could be close, based on talks with multiple sources familiar with the sale.Reuters
“Junior Bridgeman has the potential to cash in on the growing demand for sports betting, which states are beginning to legalize after a Supreme Court ruling this year,” Forbes writes.
Reuters also reported that Bridgeman has lined up financing for the purchase and that outsourcing agreements regarding printing and paper costs will need to be sorted out between the buyer and seller as part of the deal.
Bridgeman has since denied that any deal is in the final stages in a comment to Courier Journal columnist Tim Sullivan that Sullivan posted on Twitter in response to the Reuters report.
Business First has reached out to Bridgeman on the SI deal a few times but he has declined comment, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
Regardless of where the deal stands, it appears Bridgeman is still interested. If he does emerge as the new owner, though, he will face significant challenges moving forward as SI tries to adapt to a new media landscape dominated by digital media and social media juggernauts. Forbes reported Tuesday that Bridgeman likely could capitalize on the new interest in legalized sports gambling through a piece of the advertising revenue, though there’s a caveat.
However, unlike other newly minted Charles Foster Kanes such as Saleforce.com founder Marc Benioff, who purchased Time magazine from Meredith this year for $190 million, and Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon, who acquired Fortune for $150 million, Bridgeman has the potential to cash in on the growing demand for sports betting, which states are beginning to legalize after a Supreme Court ruling this year.
Although the size of the sports gambling market is very likely smaller than the $150 billion its proponents claim, it’s still plenty huge and is worth billions. Television networks are salivating at the prospects of increased audiences and the advertising dollars that will follow. Smaller players in the sports media world will also get their slice of the advertising pie.
Wall Street Journal that Meredith “received several new inquiries from parties interested in the brand” after the Supreme Court decision, which declared that a federal prohibition on states’ adding sports gambling was unconstitutional. Sports Illustrated reaches 50 million readers in print and online, a decent-sized audience, albeit nowhere near that of its rival ESPN, whose monthly TV viewership is about 115 million. Still, in today’s fractured media environment, companies need to take wins where they find them.Earlier this year, Meredith spokesman Art Slusark told the
Bridgeman, who made his fortune in the restaurant business and owns a Coca-Cola bottling company, will face several unique challenges if he buys Sports Illustrated that won’t be easily solved by whatever cash infusion he can get from sports betting. For one thing, the macroeconomic trends for online publishers aren’t good. Facebook and Google siphon roughly 60% of all the advertising revenue, leaving the “crumbs” for everyone else. The growth in so-called automated or programmatic ad auctions is also depressing ad rates.
Furthermore, as Michael MacCambridge noted in an exhaustive piece in The Ringer that ran in April, Sports Illustrated has been mismanaged for decades. Like many legacy media companies, the magazine was caught flat-footed by the digital revolution. Sports Illustrated also made several blunders, including failing to buy ESPN in 1984 at the bargain-basement price of $237 million, MacCambridge reported.
The magazine, which was once synonymous with excellence in sports journalism, is a shadow of its former self. It published 38 regular issues in 2017, down from 50 in 2015. Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated became a biweekly. Many younger sports don’t bother reading the magazine and probably have never heard of it.
According to MacCambridge, Sports Illustrated made a “healthy” profit last year, which presents a problem. “The magazine has been squeezed and strangled to maximize the bottom line—often at the expense of editorial and aesthetic quality—on a regular basis for decades,” he writes. “If it was owned by someone who truly cared about what the magazine has meant and can still mean, it might be breaking even as a weekly instead of making millions as a crippled, compromised biweekly.”
Whether Bridgeman will be the type of owner that MacCambridge is describing isn’t clear.
A spokeswoman for his bottling company Heartland Coca-Cola declined to comment. Meredith also declined to comment.
MORE ON MR. Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman,
The Richest NBA Player Nobody Knows About
Junior Bridgeman went from regular NBA player to $600 million man within a matter of decades.
There are many successful NBA players on and off the court, from Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant to Shaq & Magic Johnson. These players are not just had very successful basketball career, but they are very successful businessmen. This former players’ business had nothing to do with basketball. It has everything to do with the popular fast-food chain Wendy’s.
Who the Hell Are We Talking About?
His name is Junior Bridgeman. Bridgeman was drafted 8th overall in the 1975 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He was then immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Bridgeman had two stints with the Bucks and one stint with the Los Angeles Clippers. He first played for the Bucks from 1975-1984, he then played for the Clippers from 1984-1986. He would end his career with the Bucks from 1986-1987.
Bridgeman played 711 games for the Bucks which still stands today for the most in franchise history. His number two he wore for the Bucks is retired. Bridgeman invested the money he earned from the NBA into Wendy’s restaurants. By the time his career was over, Bridgeman had already owned three Wendy’s. He also formed his own food company called Bridgeman Food LLC. With this company, he operated as a franchise for Wendy’s restaurants in the United States. This was a smart investment on Bridgeman’s behalf as Wendy’s is one of the most popular fast food restaurants in the world.
East Chicago, Indiana, Bridgeman was a member of the 1971 East Chicago Washington High School Senators basketball team, which went undefeated (29-0) and won the Indiana state high school basketball championship. Among his teammates were his brother Sam, Pete Trgovich (who played at UCLA) and Tim Stoddard (N.C. State), who would go on to have success as a Major League Baseball pitcher.Born in
A 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall guard/forward from the University of Louisville, Bridgeman was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975 and immediately traded with Brian Winters, David Meyers and Elmore Smith to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bridgeman went on to have a solid 12-year NBA career, spent mostly with the Bucks, and he scored 11,517 total points. Although he was a sixth man for most of his career, he averaged double figures in scoring for nine consecutive seasons. He played in 711 games for the Bucks, still the most in franchise history, although he started only 105 times.
Currently Bridgeman’s net worth is estimated to be about $600 million, Bridgeman owns many Wendy’s restaurant as well as Chili’s restaurants. Recently, he has sold some of his restaurants and signed a deal with Coca-Cola to become a distributor for the company. He also owns and operates his own Coca-Cola business with his son.
Matt Bevin following an administrative reorganization in which Bevin abolished the university’s former governing board. The appointment of the new board, including Bridgeman, was challenged by the state’s Attorney General Andy Beshear on grounds that the governor did not have the power to do so. He is a member of the Louisville megachurch Southeast Christian Church, which Bevin also attends. Bridgeman is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.In late June 2016, Bridgeman was appointed to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees by Governor of Kentucky