Former Milwaukee Bucks player Ulysses “Junior" Bridgeman, who became one of the largest restaurant franchise operators in the country after retiring from the NBA in 1987, is in the process of divesting his restaurant holdings and has become a new bottler for the Coca-Cola system.
Bridgeman turned a purchase of five Wendy’s franchises in Milwaukee into 240 Wendy’s nationwide (the second largest portfolio in the chain’s franchisee network) and 124 Chili’s, according to Restaurant Business Online.
But now, Bridgeman is divesting his restaurant holdings to focus on his future in the Coca-Cola system, according to the Coca-Cola Co.
Bridgeman has signed a letter of intent to acquire territory from the Coca-Cola Co. in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska, including the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City. Bridgeman also will acquire a production facility in Lenexa, Kan. Justin Bridgeman, one of Junior Bridgeman’s sons, will lead the company with his father.
The new bottling company will become just the third new, independent Coca-Cola bottler in recent decades.
Coca-Cola also announced that Rosemont, Ill.-based Great Lakes Coca-Cola Distribution LLC will acquire six production facilities, including one in Milwaukee, at 11800 W. Brown Deer Road.
In 2013, Coca-Cola Co. announced it would invest $30 million
in improving its Milwaukee plant.