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Revisiting 'The Greatest Sports Deal Of All Time' - Forbes

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"This is a tale of fortune, both good and bad.

Here’s what’s known: Thirty-five years ago this June two brothers, Ozzie and Daniel Silna, along with their lawyer, Donald Schupak, negotiated what’s been called the greatest sports deal of all time. On an initial investment of $1 million, the Silnas have reaped an estimated $237 million."

For a friday reading! Have fun!

Amazing story -- I always wondered why St Louis, Kentucky, and Virginia don't have NBA teams despite basketball's big appeal in those places:

In 1974 Ozzie and Daniel Silna, owners of a successful New Jersey textile company, bought an American Basketball Association team known as the Carolina Cougars and immediately moved the franchise to St. Louis, then the largest U.S. television market without professional basketball. They renamed the team the Spirits of St. Louis, paying homage to Charles Lindbergh’s airplane. A man named Bob Costas, in his first year of professional broadcasting, did the team’s play-by-play on radio station KMOX. The Spirits, led by the mercurial rookie, Marvin Barnes, made the ABA playoffs in the 1974-1975 season, losing in the second round. The next season, the team added a 6’10” rebounding and point-scoring machine named Moses Malone.

But that season would be the ABA’s last. In the summer of 1976, the National Basketball Association, tired of competing with the ABA for talent and wary of future litigation, decided to merge with the upstart league, which, at the time, had seven franchises. Executives from both leagues met that June in Hyannis, Mass., to hash out the merger. The NBA agreed to add four of the ABA franchises: the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and New York Nets (later to become the New Jersey Nets). One of the franchises, the Virginia Squires, folded before the meeting.

Two teams were left out of the merger: the Kentucky Colonels and the Silnas’ Spirits. The ABA offered the franchises $3 million each to fold. John Y. Brown, owner of the Colonels, took the deal. (Then the president and majority owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Brown would go on to become the governor of Kentucky.) The Silnas turned it down.

Instead, they negotiated their own deal. ABA officials, wanting to tidy up the merger, agreed to the following: the Silnas would be paid for any Spirits players drafted by NBA teams, an amount that came to roughly $2.2 million. On top of that, the Silnas would also get a 1/7th share of each of the four former ABA teams’ NBA “visual media” rights (which amounted to 57% of one full share).

Here’s the kicker: they would receive that share of the NBA’s television revenue… in perpetuity.

The goal was to compensate them for their loss, not enrich them beyond what was fair.

Visual media rights in perpetuity turns out to be huge.

What a sweet deal they got going, even with the losses to Bernie Madoff.

And yet, they'd rather own an NBA franchise. That was their dream, not making all this money.

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