Athletes making Big Buck$ can mean big losses

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I have been thinking about this column for quite sometime now. What prompted it basically are the humungous dollars being lavished on Free Agents, Foreign Players and just the amount of money used to keep Franchise Players with the same team.

It brought back many memories.  In 1973, the Miami Dolphins in only their third year in the NFL went on to win the Super Bowl.  They were undefeated for 17 games. They beat the Redskins 14-7 in the Los Angeles Coliseum. My son Steven and I were at that game.

The Dolphins hadn't even stopped holding the Trophy up when I was an integral part of signing FB Larry Csonka, HB Jim Kiick and WR Paul Warfield to leave the NFL and join the fledgling WFL.

It was football's first multi-million deal at more than 3 million. The trio who along with QB Bob Griese were the offensive dynamite that had lead Miami's undefeated season. Unfortunately, the WFL was short- lived and they played for only one year.

However, the idea of bigger money for athletes became a reality. In 1973, today's numbers were unimaginable...the figures dwarf even the current day imagination.

It is no secret how girls, fast cars, bad investment and slick, non-caring financial advisors can leave athletes penniless even after a long and fruitful playing career.

However, I want to point out that athletes without business acumen are not the only ones in today's society that find themselves in dire financial straits.

Just last night, I was watching CNN when they did a profile on a man whom I knew as a mover and shaker in the Entertainment Industry. At one point, his net worth was over $300 million. He was confidant of Presidents and visited with Kings and Queens.  His life-style was lavish. Even as astute as he was, bad investments toppled his empire.

Athletes, however, for the most part must look to others to protect them financially.  After all, all they really know is how to play the game. They either have no knowledge, or listen to their sycophantic entourages who normally know no more than the athlete and live off of he, or she. The list is long, but I have selected 5 high profile performers and what has happened to them.

Evander Holyfield lost about $250 million after failed business ventures.  He had International Sponsorships. In 2008, he was forced to auction of his $10 million estate while in the ring he had lost his ear lobe to Mike Tyson.

What about Mike Tyson?  It is reported he lost close to $400 million. He actually bit off more than he could chew both in and out of the ring. He spent nearly all his money on pet tigers, mansions and an extremely expensive divorce.

No sadder case is that evident by the fall from grace of Lenny Dykstra. A three time All-Star who won the 1986 World Series, by 2009, he had lost about $50 million, filed for Bankruptcy. To compound his problems, Lenny had held himself out as a financial expert offering advice other athletes and using their money.  He was indicted on car theft charges and drug possession as well as sexual related charges that landed him in jail.

Curt Schilling who once on a broken ankle with blood seeping out through his socks, pitched the Red Sox to a World Series Championship, saw his company file for Bankruptcy last June. It currently owes $150 million and has just slightly under $22 million in assets.  He stands to lose all $50 million he saved playing Baseball.

And last, but not least of the top 5 is Allen Iverson. Last year before a judge in Georgia he admitted being flat broke and could not pay a $860k jewelry debt. Think about it, Iverson earned $150 million in salary and approximately $50 million in endorsements during his career. He traveled with a 50-person entourage, blew millions gambling, had massive child support obligations and lavished friend with expensive gifts.

So, when you read about, or hear about athletes making BIG $, reflect on the five I have written about and understand, they have all too many colleagues who will find themselves in the same straits.

However, in today's upside-down economy, we are seeing all too many solid business people facing the same fate, but not because of extravagance and wasteful endeavors.








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Sports Scrapbook
Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.