The story of two men stealing millions from the NBA
The greatest heist of the last quarter century does not involve Bernie Madoff or some elaborate train robbery of methylamine. No sir. Meet Ozzie and Daniel Silna who have literally stolen millions from the NBA in a sweetheart TV deal.
The two were owners of the ABA’s St. Louis Spirit, a league that has not been in existence for quite some time. During the ABA-NBA merger of 1976, the Spirit were kept from joining the league and in turn, were given a rather nice payout. A payout that now officially stands at $255 million.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the New York Times story on the Silna brothers.
But if the Spirits couldn’t join the N.B.A., the Silna brothers wanted to share in what the A.B.A. didn’t have: national TV revenue. They settled with one-seventh of the television money generated annually by each of the four surviving A.B.A. teams — the Nets, the San Antonio Spurs, the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets.
In 1980-81, the first year the Silnas were eligible to get their share of TV money, they received $521,749, according to court documents filed by the N.B.A. For the 2010-11 season, they received $17,450,000. The N.B.A.’s latest TV deal, with ESPN and TNT, is worth $7.4 billion over eight years. Soon, the Silnas’ total take will hit $300 million.
But not all has been lollipops and rainbows for the two. The aforementioned Bernie Madoff ripped them off for some $24 million in that Ponzi scheme. That’s like, full circle or something right?