Bankruptcy judge approves sale of Ebony, Jet

Former NBA star Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman gets the historic titles with a $14 million bid.

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Covers of Ebony and Jet that were on display in 2005 at offices of Johnson Publishing, 820 S. Michigan Ave.

Sun-Times files

A bankruptcy judge approved the $14 million sale Tuesday of Ebony Media Operations, the owner of the Ebony and Jet publications, to former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman.

The sale could lead to a revival of the historic titles that highlighted African American voices and culture. Ebony was founded in Chicago in 1945 by the late John H. Johnson, who added Jet in 1951. They were sold to CVG Group, which ended their print publication in 2019 and was forced into bankruptcy this year.

Bridgeman Sports and Media of Louisville, Kentucky, was the sole bidder for the publications. Judge David Jones in the Southern District of Texas, meeting in Houston, approved the sale.

Leonard Simon, an attorney representing Ebony, said the sale should close next week.

Bridgeman, whose NBA career spanned 12 years mostly with the Milwaukee Bucks, is a franchisee for several restaurant chains and runs a Coca-Cola bottling operation. The sale would mark his first media acquisition, although he tried to buy Sports Illustrated in 2019.

He could not be reached for comment Tuesday but has told the Wall Street Journal he intends to revive Ebony as a digital publication and believes it is still relevant to the Black community.

Houston-based CVG Group said since acquiring Ebony and Jet in 2016, it invested “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to keep them going, but that business declined amid general challenges for all media companies, with digital options draining advertising dollars and readers. A plan to have the company profit from events foundered because of the pandemic.

The company’s principal creditor was Parkview Capital Credit, which forced it into bankruptcy with claims of $11.9 million.

Earlier this year, CVG sold Ebony’s historic photo archives and artwork that formerly decorated its Michigan Avenue offices. CVG owned 80% of the company, with Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of Johnson Publishing’s founder, holding 20%.

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