Team Frugal: Ulysses Lee "Junior" Bridgeman

Being frugal is about more than being stingy with your money. It means being prudent, smart and economical with your finances and career decisions. Every Tuesday, we share profiles of athletes that exemplify what it means to be A Frugal Athlete.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a superstar to have a solid career in professional sports or life after sports. You can be a glue guy or a role player or a position specialist and still play just as long as the next athlete. Some may say that you didn’t win any accolades or weren’t a first ballot hall of fame inductee so they may try to downplay your career. 

It is an honor and a blessing to even get one game as a professional athlete let alone 12 yearsand although Junior Bridgeman may not be remembered for his exploits on the court,  he will definitely be remembered off of it.  For that reason, Junior Bridgeman is this week's #teamfrugaltuesdays edition. Not to sell him short, Bridgeman was a first round pick and still holds many records for the Milwaukee Bucks but what he has done off the court is what makes him so special. 

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Bridgeman is the founder and CEO of Manna Inc/ Bridgeman Foods, a conglomerate of fast food franchises, with an estimated net worth ranging around 400 million. Well more than he made during his playing career.  Bridgeman owns over 200 fast food restaurants and is the second largest franchise owner of Wendy’s in the world. That's right, THE WORLD.

Bridgeman played during an era where it was inevitable you were going to have to work once your career was over. His largest contract was only 350,000 dollars which is pennies compared to some of the contracts current NBA players are making. During his career, Bridgeman served as an NBA players’ representative for the players union and later as president of the NBA player’s association. He credits negotiating with owners of NBA franchises to giving him a head start into the business world. Bridgeman spent his offseasons working other jobs such as selling insurance to help stabilize his future upon retiring. 

Immediately upon retiring in 1987, Junior Bridgeman opened up his first Wendy’s franchise. Although he was the owner, he worked countless positions on site to learn and be involved in the culture and growth of the company. His hands on approach was a key reason for his success. 

Bridgeman continues to expand his business portfolio today. He is an investor in the Sacramento Kings and new fast food chains including Blaze Pizza, the pizza company Lebron James is known to be an investor in. He also offers guidance to players hoping to transition in business after sports.

Junior Bridgeman is a great example of an athlete that did his homework before launching into a new venture. Just because you have capital doesn't mean everything you touch will turn to gold. You have to be willing to build from the ground up, sacrifice, as well as learn the trade of whatever you are involving yourself in.