Ulysses ‘Junior’ Bridgeman was not a household name while he played in the NBA but he did have a solid 12-year career in the league. He was drafted by the LA Lakers in 1975 but was immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bridgeman would spend most of his career with the Milwaukee Bucks. It was after retiring from the NBA, that his story takes a remarkable turn.
While statistics show a good amount of NBA players go broke within 5 years of retirement, Junior Bridgeman bucked that trend and became wildly successful in business. Mr. Bridgeman has amassed a fortune of more than $400 million by owning more than 240 Wendy’s and 120 Chilli’s food franchises. His business firm, Bridgeman Foods Inc., employs over 11,000 people and generates over $530 million dollars a year in revenue. Unlike the marquee players that make huge fortunes from lucrative contracts and endorsement deals, Junior Bridgeman’s highest yearly salary in the NBA was $350,000. He currently owns the second largest number of Wendy’s franchises in the world.
Junior Bridgeman is in the process of selling off his restaurant holdings and will become a bottler for the Coca-Cola beverage company. His aquistion of bottling for Coke marks only the third time in recent decades that a new, independent bottler will be working with the Coca-Cola company. In addition, Mr. Bridgeman is well regarded for his business acumen and is a sought after speaker, and is a member of the board of directors of the PGA and appointed to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.