Thursday, April 10, 2014

The End of the Best Deal Ever

It was probably 15 or 20 years ago that I first heard references to a little known "Deal of the Century." In the mid-1970s, the Silna brothers purchased the struggling 'Spirits of St Louis' basketball team in the struggling ABA basketball league for a mere $1 million.  The ABA almost immediately folded, with only a handful of its teams then joining the (struggling) NBA in 1976. Other ABA teams accepted buyouts to fold, but not the Silnas.  And here's what resulted for the next 40 years.

"With the help of their lawyer, Donald Schupak, the brothers cut a deal: The four ABA teams decamping to the NBA would... pay the brothers one-seventh of their national broadcast revenues in perpetuity...[T]he deal became the sports equivalent of Peter Minuit paying $24 for the island of Manhattan. According to court documents obtained by SI, the brothers received a total of $521,749 in 1980, the first year the contract vested. By '86-87 the annual payout eclipsed $1 million. By 1999-2000 it eclipsed $10 million. For 2010-11, the last season for which records are available, the Silnas made $17.5 million. After last season they had made more than $300 million cumulatively -- with no end in sight."

According to Sports Illustrated HERE, earlier this week the Silna brothers, now 81 and 69 years old respectively, apparently accepted a buy out, one long-sought after by the NBA.  The buy-out price was apparently "in excess of $500 million," meaning that their initial $1 million investment would've netted them over $1 billion, in the end.

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