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July 5, 2016

How One Retired NBA Player Built A $400 Million Fast Food Empire

Junior Bridgeman

You may not have heard of Junior Bridgeman, but he was an NBA player for 12 years for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. Like all players, he eventually retired. But unlike most players, who, according to Sports Illustrated, go broke within 5 years after retiring, Bridgeman became much more successful after retirement than he was during his years playing basketball, building a $400 million fast food empire.

Success as an athlete

Bridgeman was born in 1953 into a blue collar family in East Chicago. He played basketball in high school and played guard and forward during college at the University of Louisville. After college, he was picked in the first round of the 1975 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, but was immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His athletic career was uneventful, but it was what he did after retiring that was so significant.

Success as an entrepreneur

Although Bridgeman was not a star athlete that ended up making millions in basketball and endorsements, he was a good basketball player and an even better businessman. He started planning his business franchises while he was still in the NBA, and by the time he retired, he owned three Wendy's franchises. Today, he is the second largest owner of Wendy's franchises in America.

He established Manna, Inc (also known as Bridgeman Foods Inc) which has been in business for 25 years, and operates more than 160 Wendy's and more than 120 Chili's franchises. Bridgeman employs over 11,000 people and his revenues exceed $530 million dollars a year.

But, he has recently announced that he is selling off his fast food franchises to launch a Coca-Cola bottling company, the third new, independent Coca-Cola bottler in recent decades.

His net worth

His personal net worth is over $400 million, which is just $250 million below that of Michael Jordan, and, ironically, $380 million more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's current net worth. Abdul-Jabbar was who the NBA traded him for in 1975. Bridgeman remains a shining example of how retirement from sports can lead to business success.

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