The 1976 sports deal that made the Silna brothers, former owners of a long defunct American Basketball Association franchise, multimillionaires has been settled to end perpetual payments to the men.
The Silnas, the former owners of the ABA's Spirits of St. Louis, will receive $500 million an upfront payment, financed through a private placement of notes by JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch, according to the New York Times on Tuesday.
The Silna brothers had been receiving one-seventh of the television revenue from the four former ABA teams in the NBA – Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs – annually in what some call the "greatest sports deal of all time."
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That deal was hatched in the mid 1970s when the remaining teams from the upstart ABA wanted desperately to get into the NBA. The elder league had gotten tired of the younger entity driving up prices for players in its annual bidding war.
The problem was that the NBA did not want two ABA teams – the Kentucky Colonels and the Silna brothers' team in St. Louis. While the owners of the Colonels took $3 million to fold, the brothers cut a unique deal that gave them one-seventh of future television revenue of the four remaining ABA teams.
A deal that the NBA thought would get the Silna brothers out of their hair turned into a long range marriage, as the league popularity and television revenue exploded with the rival of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 1980s.
Sports Illustrated reported that the Silnas
have made more than $300 million through the course of the deal. Daniel Silna said, though, he and his brother Ozzie wanted to be NBA owners.
"There is nothing to gloat about," Daniel Silna told Sports Illustrated in 2003. "We had hoped to be part of the merger. During our two years with the Spirits, there was a lot of heartache, but also a lot of joy."
The Silna brothers will continue to get some money, including from NBA TV, foreign broadcasting of games and its on-demand League Pass as a settlement of a lawsuit they filed against the league.
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