Ulysses Lee Junior Bridgeman, one of the wealthiest former athletes in the world, has a magical story of turning his $350,000 per season salary into a net worth of $600 million after he retired from the NBA.
Bridgeman had his retirement plan carefully planned out. He was quick to know that his time in the NBA would soon be coming to an end and that he would need to find other ways of generating income. So he made up his mind to purchase a franchise of Wendy’s fast food restaurant.
During his off-seasons, while he was in the NBA, Bridgeman worked at a local Wendy’s restaurant in order to learn the nitty-gritty of running a fast-food restaurant business. It was during this time that he also learned about the business model of the restaurant franchise. Working at Wendy’s restaurant laid the foundation for his highly successful food business and started the transformational story of his financial legacy. By the time he retired from the NBA, he already owned three Wendy’s restaurants.
The decision Bridgeman made to work at a local Wendy’s restaurant might look ordinary but thinking about it deeply, one would realize that the decision would have cost him his reputation and the luxury of resting and having fun during the off-seasons, something most of his team members would have done. Just imagine an NBA star serving you your Wendy’s order, this only showed how determined Bridgeman was to create enduring wealth.
Over the next few years, Bridgeman steadily grew Bridgeman Foods INC. Due to his great work ethic and his unparalleled dedication to the business goals and vision, his business began to boom. Bridgeman refused to sit back, he was frequently seen behind the counters selling at his own restaurants.
According to a reported story, there was a day a customer recognized Bridgeman in his Wendy’s uniform preparing an order. The customer felt disappointed and shocked at the same time. The customer immediately called a local sports show to talk about how sad it was to witness an ex-NBA star working in a fast food restaurant due to financial strains but this experience did not bother Bridgeman in any way he was so focused on his goals.
Before Bridgeman sold off his restaurant chains, the food business expanded from three Wendy’s restaurants to 249 Wendy’s restaurants and over 120 Chili’s branches which earned him over $530 million in revenue yearly.
The Wendy’s restaurant and Chili’s franchise was not the only business Bridgeman invested in. Billionaire.Africa has highlighted the businesses that transformed Bridgeman from an average NBA player earning $350,000 per year to becoming one of the wealthiest ex-athletes with a net worth of $600 million:
- Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company: After Bridgeman sold off his restaurant chains in 2016, he invested the proceeds into acquiring a Coca-Cola bottling right. It was this move that birthed the Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Co. The business love story between Coca-Cola and Bridgeman began when he was still an NBA basketball player. During his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, he was on the search for a sponsor for his free summer camp, and Coca-Cola agreed to sponsor the event. It was during this time that he took a tour of the Bottler warehouse, and the distribution facility caught his interest. Heartland Coca-Cola officially began operations in February 2017. As of January 2023, Heartland was producing 30 million crates annually from its Lenexa production facility, and they were distributing to their retailers across the country with 900 vehicles. According to a report by Boss Magazine, in 2019, the company boasted revenue of $650 million after just two years of operations.
- Ebony and Jets Magazines: In December 2020, Bridgeman purchased Ebony and Jets Magazine through Bridgeman Sports and Media for $14 million after the magazine declared bankruptcy. Bridgeman bought the magazine with the belief that he could bring the magazine back to its former glory. Prior to the acquisition, Ebony magazine had been in publication for over 75 years, documenting Black life in America. Although the magazine is currently not performing as it should because many people have shifted to reading digital magazines especially because of the COVID-19 global lockdown, the CEO, Eden Bridgeman is working tirelessly on rebranding the magazine.
- Manna Capital Partners: Manna Capital Partners was founded by Bridgeman and Kevin Attkisson. They focus on investment and acquisition possibilities across industries. Manna Beverages and Ventures an affiliate of Manna Capital Partners specializes in the beverage manufacturing industry. In 2022, MB & V announced the opening of a $600 million beverage plant in Montgomery which would create 280 jobs. Also, in September 2023, Manna Beverages and Ventures announced that they intended to acquire California-based Nor-Cal Beverage, which is the largest sole co-parkers of teas, juices and other kinds of beverages.