They’re big, strong, talented and filthy rich. Yet, for professional athletes, the road to the mega bucks isn’t quite as simple as it may seem. While we frequently hear stories of a pretty face plucked from obscurity to star on the big screen, young athletes aren’t quite so fortunate.
Most pros learned their sport as children and played in high school and through college. Then, a kid with dreams of playing professional baseball, for instance, still has to face the Major League Baseball draft. If he makes the cut, he’ll have to prove himself further by making it through the minors to get to the big league. To make it onto the Kansas City Royals roster, he’ll have to work his way through four rookie-level teams, according to Whit Merrifield, a Royal’s ninth-round draft pick back in 2010.
Budding basketball stars have it even tougher, according to the NCAA. Sadly, a boy who plays the sport through high school and college has only a .03 percent chance of going on to a professional career in the sport. The stats for girls? Just as gloomy: Only .02 percent of them get drafted.
The hard truth remains that, while it takes an enormous amount of talent, time and effort to reach star-status in the athletic world, all of it can vanish, seemingly overnight.
Whether through misfortune or stupidity, the mighty can fall into financial ruin like everyone else, just on a grander scale. RealEstate.com did a little digging and came up with the dirt on how some über wealthy athletes ended up broke and in foreclosure.
From the 1980s into the 1990s, “Nails” dominated the sports pages of American newspapers during his baseball career and ended up featured on the crime beat afterward.
Lenny Dykstra, center fielder with the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies, purchased his Thousand Oaks, California home from Wayne Gretzky in 2007 for 18.5 million, with hopes of flipping it for a profit, according to Luxist.com.
The sprawling estate sits on 6.5 acres and includes formal gardens, a pool, spa, tennis courts, gym and three guesthouses.
Three years later, broke, Dykstra sold his 1968 World Series ring to raise money and ended up losing his $160,000 car and his $2 million Gulfstream jet to repossession. His attempt to sell the home, for $24.9 million, failed. So did his stab at a short sale. Finally, after filing bankruptcy, he lost the house. The lender sold it at a fire sale price in January 2011: $10.5 million.
While the downward spiral of Dykstra’s finances ended in a spectacular crash, the resulting burn included time spent in a sober living facility and at his current residence, a California prison.
While one hopes that losing everything offers a learning experience, Dykstra asks: “ … because I wasn’t a perfect person am I a criminal?”
Only in a wealthy athlete’s universe do pending court cases for indecent exposure and bankruptcy fraud and convictions for grand theft auto, possession of cocaine, ecstasy, and human growth hormone as well as providing false financial statements not constitute criminal activity.
No stranger to foreclosure proceedings, Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J, lost the Heritage Golf Club in Atlanta to a 2010 foreclosure process. Like Dykstra, he attempted to sell his 6,600 square foot Utah home for $2 million, eventually losing the home to foreclosure in 2010.
The saddest part of Dr. J’s story includes his attempts to fix his finances by auctioning off some of his memories: his final-game Sixer jersey, championship rings and MVP trophies.
After all the work, all the sweat and all the dreams, Antoine Walker made it: an NBA superstar, excelling on the court from 1996 through 2008 and amassing a $110 million fortune in the process.
During this time, he purchased his 7,000 square foot Florida dream home. This Coconut Grove stunner features a Zen garden, lap pool, maid’s quarters, an in-law suite and more. Walker paid $3.1 million for it in 2005 and, in 2009, attempted to sell it for $3.4 million. Despite a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the lender held on to its rights to go after defaulted payments. In foreclosure, the home eventually sold for the bargain basement price of $1.8 million.
He also lost his Tinley Park Chicago manse to foreclosure during this same time period.
What brought this NBA powerhouse to his financial knees? Gambling. A Vegas high roller who thought nothing of betting $15,000 a hand at the poker tables, he quickly burned through his massive fortune. 2009 saw Walker arrested on 10 bad check charges representing $1 million worth of Sin City casino markers.
With three Stanley Cups under his belt, former Detroit Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov purchased two homes in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1999. Within a year of purchasing his primary residence, a 4,000 square foot home priced at $1.25 million, he faced foreclosure.
Like the previous athletes, Fedorov attempted to sell the home and he put it on the market for less than $1 million, as a short sale, which eventually failed, as so many short sales did at that time. The lender took back the home in foreclosure in June 2010. He lost the second home to foreclosure in 2011.
Fedorov claims that both foreclosures occurred as a result of some bad investments made by his former financial advisor, whom he successfully sued for $60 million.
Fighting off one foreclosure proceeding can stress even the toughest of athletes. Battling two foreclosures, on the same home in the same year, can bring even pro boxer Evander Hollyfield to his knees. Especially when the home, sitting on 235 acres, with 109 rooms in 54,000 square feet of living space, represents a “symbol of his success,” according to Holyfield’s accountant.
Holyfield struck a deal with the lender on the first foreclosure attempt but wasn’t quite as lucky with the second. He ended up suing, among others, Stewart Title and JPMorgan Chase, for “intentional, fraudulent conduct” with regards to the foreclosure proceeding.
Although Holyfield claimed all along that he wasn’t “broke, just not liquid,” the father of 9 children paid a hefty half million dollars a year just in child support payments. Add to that the additional cost of some bad business ventures, and the over $1 million in annual upkeep for the house, and it’s obvious he was in way over his head financially.
He lost the “trophy” house with the onsite movie theater and bowling alley as well as an additional property he owned in Fayette.
To top it off, a few weeks ago the Georgia Department of Human Services slapped Holyfield with a suit on behalf of his 18-year-old daughter, Emani, for back child support. Either he comes up with the $327,097.40 in missed support payments or he’ll do time in jail, according to celeb gossip site, TMZ.
Holyfield’s career saw his meteoric rise in the fight world from his debut at the tender age of 21 to his coronation as a five-time world heavyweight champion. Estimates put Holyfield’s lifetime gross from the boxing ring at more than $248 million.
Lenders don’t care that your name is O.J. Simpson and that you currently reside at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada. If you don’t pay your mortgage payments, there’s a real good chance your lender will foreclose. And, JPMorgan Chase has decided to do just that on Simpson’s Florida home.
Although his attorney filed court papers to try to stop the sale, Simpson didn’t participate in the mandated foreclosure mediation program, so a judge denied his request to dismiss the foreclosure, according to The Plantation Journal.
Simpson’s financial woes began with a mid-1990s court-ordered judgment to pay $33.5 million to Ron Goldman’s parents for his wrongful death. Despite the fact that Simpson apparently made almost a million dollars on his book deal (the rights to the book were subsequently awarded to the Goldman family), bought his current home in 2000 and continues to receive his NFL pension while in prison, Goldman’s attorney carries on the fight to collect the money.
Simpson spent $575,000 for the 4,233 square foot Florida house and assessor records place its current value at $478,401, according to USA Today.
The former NFL star is serving up to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and armed robbery because of a 2007 confrontation in Las Vegas.
Latrell Sprewell, best known for choking his coach in 1997, earned almost $100 million over his professional basketball career. That career came to an abrupt end in 2005 when he turned down a $21 million contract extension, famously stating that it wasn’t enough money to feed his family.
By this time he was sinking financially. His $1.5 million yacht was seized after he defaulted on the mortgage on his Milwaukee home. The house went into foreclosure in May 2008, followed by his $5.4 million, 3.3 acre Westchester property hitting the foreclosure block.
The Wall Street Journal’s Emily Peck claims that Jose Canseco chalks up his success on the ball field by adhering to the Pete Rose baseball philosophy: “See the ball; hit the ball.” It’s a shame he doesn’t employ that same philosophy to his financial life as well: “See the mortgage, pay the mortgage,” for instance.
“You know my life, this financial thing, is a very complicated issue,” he told the Inside Edition TV show, according to US News.
So complicated, it seems, that he just doesn’t get that when you sign mortgage papers you actually owe the money until you pay off the loan or someone else assumes it. So he walked away from the $2.5 million dollar mortgage on his 7,300 square foot home in Encino, California.
“I do have a judgment on my home and it to me is very strange because it didn’t make financial sense for me to keep paying a mortgage on a home that was basically owned by someone else.”
Peeking inside some people’s minds may tax your sense of humor.
So, what does the highest-paid NFL player do for fun? Raise and fight dogs, of course. Michael Vick, despite his talent on the gridiron, not only ended up in prison for running Bad Newz Kennels – a dog-fighting ring – but in the minds of many Americans he epitomized cruelty.
The prison stint – a quick one due to his guilty plea to avoid RICO statute charges – cost him everything: contracts, endorsements and his $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons.
In 2008, while still incarcerated, Vick filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and lost his Duluth, Georgia manse to foreclosure.
Unlike so many of these rags-to-riches-to-rags stories, however, Vick bounced right back after his release from prison in 2009, quickly signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2011 he re-signed for $100 million, and, despite still claiming he did nothing wrong and that “ … it was people trying to make some money,” he works with the Humane Society of the United States, speaking out about the cruelty of dog fighting.
Did we miss any pro athletes in our post? Share your thoughts on these and other high-profile foreclosures.