We look forward to serving alongside Mr. Bridgeman as we continue to ignite the societal potential of all Coke Scholars and cultivate this special network of leaders who create positive change in their communities and beyond.” said Kirk Tyler, CCSF Board Chair and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Bottling Company.
Ulysses L. “Junior” Bridgeman, Jr., is the owner and chief executive officer of Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company, LLC, a Kansas limited liability company which owns and operates a Coca-Cola production/manufacturing facility in Lenexa, Kansas, and 17 Coca-Cola distribution facilities sprinkled across the USA’s heartland, including Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.
Mr. Bridgeman is also part owner of Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Limited with Larry Tanenbaum, a prominent Canadian businessman and philanthropist. Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Limited employs approximately 5,800 associates and operates five production facilities and over 50 sales and distribution centers. Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Limited conducts business in all 10 Canadian provinces and three territories.
Mr. Bridgeman acquired the Heartland manufacturing and bottling territories from Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, LLC in late February 2017. The Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Limited acquisition was completed in October 2018, and both transactions made Mr. Bridgeman one of the Coca-Cola system’s newest independent bottlers.
Prior to acquisition of the Heartland and Canadian bottling operations, Mr. Bridgeman was the owner and chief executive officer of various companies operating over 450 restaurants in 20 states, including 263 Wendy’s restaurants and 123 Chili’s restaurants. He has over 11,000 employees and revenues in excess of $500 million. He is ranked #3 on the Restaurant Finance Monitor’s Top 200 franchisee-owned companies. His companies received several prestigious awards during his tenure including the Diamond Award (most effective neighborhood marketer), the Wendy Award (exemplary performance by a franchisee), the Founder’s Award (recognizing operational excellence by a franchisee), the Jim Near Legacy Award (for employer of choice) and the Hall of Fame Award (for overall achievement) from Wendy’s International, and the Franchisee of the Year Award (2012) and the Chili’s Sales Award (2015) from Brinker International.
Born in East Chicago, Indiana, Bridgeman was a member of the 1971 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.
Mr. Bridgeman attended the University of Louisville where he graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. He was a three-year letter winner and starter on the University’s basketball team, receiving All American honors as a senior
From 1975 to 1983 and from 1986 to 1987, Mr. Bridgeman played professional basketball with the Milwaukee Bucks. During the interim period of 1983 to 1986, he played for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mr. Bridgeman currently serves on the Board of Directors of Meijer, Inc., Churchill Downs, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the James Graham Brown Foundation, Simmons College, and the West End School. He served as past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville.
Mr. Bridgeman has personally received many awards, including the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame; Volunteers of America Tribute Award for Outstanding Service to the Commonwealth of Kentucky; John Thompson Foundation Outstanding Achievement Award; Coach John Wooden Key to Life Award and the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.
New Owner Of Ebony Magazine Pivots To Generational Wealth Building, Small Business Content
The new owner of Ebony Magazine and his team have pivoted the historical publication’s focus to wealth building and small business content aimed at equipping the Black community to be successful.
After years of financial challenges and several changes in leadership and ownership as a result of print publications being decimated by digital media, Ebony and its sister magazine Jet were purchased by former NBA player and entrepreneur Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman in Dec. 2020.
Shortly thereafter, Bridgeman named Michelle Ghee as CEO of Ebony and Jet. Ghee has decades of experience in a variety of roles ranging from account executive to senior vice-president at networks including BET, CNN and The Weather Channel.
Ghee explained the content shift in a recent interview with NPR. “African Americans are not getting compensated, they’re not getting honored, they’re not getting hired at the rate at which they’re contributing to the American fabric,” Ghee said.
“We have to begin to educate, but also give people tools so that they can too begin to build their businesses,” Ghee continued. “I’m flying from place to place literally meeting small business owners asking: How can we help you, how can we support?”
Using the theme, “Move Black Forward,” Ebony’s new direction is in tandem with Bridgeman’s own life story as a successful Black athlete-turned-business owner. In 1987, after retiring from the NBA, Bridgeman became a fast food restaurant franchisee, according to the Chicago Business Journal. In 2017, he sold his restaurants and launched the Kansas-based Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
Bridgeman recalled how Ebony depicted Black excellence in Wall Street Journal interview. He said he understood the way the world consumes news has changed, but thinks there is no reason why Ebony can’t be held in the same esteem it once was. He said that while there could be an occasional print issue, it would still be largely digital.
The publication will still include celebrity and entertainment stories, but it’s going to double-down on generation wealth-building, financial literacy and small business content, NPR reported.
It is a move that will help boost success in the Black community, according to Andre Perry, who studies wealth and Black businesses at the Brookings Institution.
“Our elders used to say ‘Our ice is just as cold 9as that of white people.’ They knew that our services, our goods are just as good. And so if we can remove those negative stereotypes, we can really eat at the wealth divide that currently exists,” Perry said.