American City Business Journals sues former Tampa publisher Bridgette Bello
Image via Tampa Bay Business and Wealth

Bridgette Bello
The lawsuit claims Bello owes more than $195K in past due loan repayments.

American City Business Journals (ACBJ) is suing Former Tampa Bay Business Journal (TBBJ) Publisher Bridgette Bello for repayment of loans granted in 2008 and 2009 totaling more than $195,000.

Bello, then going by the name Bridgette Mill, signed two promissory notes with ACBJ in 2008 and 2009. The first, for $250,000, was meant “to assist Bridgette Mill with her relocation to Tampa, Florida and the purchase of a home,” according to a copy of the note filed with the lawsuit on Jan. 9.

The note called for repayment “from the proceeds of the sale of her former residence in Jacksonville, FL” or “from the net proceeds of future bonus payments, starting with the bonus paid for 2008.”

The note states the balance is due “at once if the employment … with the Lender or a subsidiary of the Lender shall terminate for any reason.”

Bello was terminated from TBBJ, a subsidiary of ACBJ, on Jan. 15, 2018, according to the lawsuit. 

The promissory note provided zero interest during Bello’s time of employment, but required interest “in the event of default of any balance or the untimely payment of any amount of principal or interest.” It further adds that Bello would agree “to pay a reasonable sum as attorney’s fees” if the note “is placed in the hands of an attorney for collection.”

The lawsuit calls for both repayment of interest accrued since her termination and “reasonable attorney’s fees.”

The second promissory note for $10,000 does not list a purpose, but the terms and conditions are the same. 

The lawsuit notes “repeated notifications from ACBJ representatives that the Notes were due and owing” and provides documentation of a letter from ACBJ President and CEO Whitney Shaw dated May 29, 2018. It claims Bello “has made no further payments toward the amounts due under the notes.”

“I am writing you to reiterate our demand for repayment of the amount owed. While we remain open to structuring a reasonable repayment plan, in lieu of a lump sum, we need to hear from you immediately if such an option is to be considered,” Shaw wrote in the May 29, 2018 letter.

Bello announced in December of 2017 that she was resigning from her position as president and publisher of TBBJ. She served 11 years as TBBJ’s top executive and worked for ACBJ for 18 years, including as director of advertising for the Jacksonville Business Journal from 1999 until her promotion to TBBJ publisher in 2007.

At the time of her resignation, Shaw offered praise for Bello’s service to the company.

“Under Bridgette’s leadership Tampa Bay frequently performed above its weight class, meaning it delivered stronger performance than many of its peer markets,” Shaw said, according to TBBJ. “In the near term, Bridget is going to take some time off, recharge and make sure her hurricane-damaged house gets fixed properly.”

Bello’s resignation came after Hurricane Irma swept through the Tampa Bay area.

Following her departure from TBBJ, Bello launched her own venture, Tampa Bay Business & Wealth. The monthly magazine chronicles local CEOs and other business leaders and provides in-depth business reporting. Bello remains its CEO and publisher. 

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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