For the past several weeks, Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been getting all kinds of attention for his racist beliefs and batshit insane interviews. However, it’s important to remember that Sterling is hardly the first team owner to disgrace his league and get fined, banned, or sent to prison. He’s just the latest.
Today we’re going to tell you about some of the others. Are they all as vile as Donald Sterling? No, not all. But some. We’ve got frauds, money launderers, con artists, racists, and even a sex-crazed pedophile. So they’re pretty damn aweful.
Take a look. They’ll put this Donald Sterling thing into a whole new perspective.
Before we meet the real slimeballs, I thought we should take a moment to pay tribute to all those owners who are poorly behaved, but don't quite merit being mentioned in the same breath as a bunch of convicted felons:
Peter Pocklington, former owner of the Edmonton Oilers: sold off every piece of the Oilers dynasty, ran the franchise into the ground, and later went to jail for lying at his bankruptcy hearing.
Mark Cuban, current owner of the Dallas Mavericks: has been fined by the league at least 13 times for a total of $1.665 million because he just never keeps his trap shut.
Jim Irsay, current owner of the Indianapolis Colts: drug addict recently arrested for DUI with prescription drugs and $30K in cash in the car.
Bud Adams, late owner of the Tennessee Titans: flipped the double bird to Buffalo Bills fans in 2009, got fined $250,000.
Now, on to the worst of the worst...
In 2007, after he failed to purchase the Nashville Predators outright (and move them to Kansas City), San Jose venture capitalist William "Boots" Del Biaggio settled for a 27% stake in the team. The problem? He was pretty much bankrupt at the time of the purchase, so paid for his share of the team with loans...that he got by lying to banks about his financial assets. That's a big no-no as far as the FBI is concerned, and he eventually got 8 years in prison.
Amazingly, Del Biaggio is one of five owners from the National Hockey League on this list. Because when it comes to vetting potential team owners, the NHL is the worst.
9. William Del Biaggio – Nashville Predators
Bruce McNall made the Kings cool in Hollywood. He bought a majority share of the team in 1987, and in 1988 he did the unthinkable when he traded for Wanye Gretzky and gave him a $3 million salary. Really, everyone loved the guy—his players, fellow owners, Hollywood elites.
There was just one problem: he built his fortune by smuggling art out of foreign countries. Then he funded his lavish spending on the Kings with bank loans obtained through fraud. So in 1994 he went to prison
People still loved the guy, though. In fact, Gretzky refused to allow his number to be retired by the Kings until McNall was out of the slammer.
8. Bruce McNall – L.A. Kings & Toronto Argonauts
The NHL isn't the only pro sports league that lets shady people buy teams. In 2009, Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung bought Enlish soccer club Birmingham City FC, currently of the second-tier Football League Championship. Then, in 2011 Yeung was charged in Hong Kong on five counts of money laundering.
Turns out Yeung used to be a hairstylist. Then, somehow, he made hundreds of millions of dollars. He said it was through trading stocks, gambling, and other "business ventures," but apparently it was all a lot more shady than that.
Now he's in jail for six years.
7. Carson Yeung – Birmingham City FC
Most people probably remember the late George Steinbrenner as a meddling dictator who fired managers on a whim and won championships by outspending every other team. However, it's important that we don't forget he was also a convicted felon who and genuine asshole.
First, the felon part: Steinbrenner made illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon, and then he tried to cover it up. So in 1974 he pled guilty to a felony charge of obstruction of justice. He didn't go to jail, of course, because he was rich, but he did have to pay a $15,000 fine, and MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him from baseball for 15 months.
As for the "genuine asshole" thing: in the late 80s, Dave Winfield sued the Yankees for not donating $300,000 to his charitable foundation as stipulated in his contract. So instead of paying the $300K, Steinbrenner paid a gambler named Howie Spira $40K to dig up dirt on Winfield that he could use as leverage.
When MLB found out in 1990 they banned Steinbrenner for life. (Sound familiar?) But of course, three years later he was reinstated.
6. George Steinbrenner – New York Yankees
John Spano never truly owned the New York Islanders. But he did control the team briefly in 1997 after he basically conned the NHL and former owner John Pickett.
You see, Spano claimed to be the owner of 10 companies that had over 6,000 employees, and that he was personally worth $230 million thanks to money he'd inherited from his grandfather. Thus, paying $165 million for the Islander shouldn't have been a problem. And when the deal was agreed upon in principle, Spano started running the team and making personnel decisions.
Then all the checks he wrote to Pickett started bouncing, and pretty soon it was discovered he was only worth $5 million, and that his company had only 22 employees and was worth just $3 million.
At that point ownership of the Islanderes went back to Pickett, and in 2000 Spano was sentanced to six years in prison for bank fraud.
5. John Spano – New York Islanders
Unlike John Spano, John Rigas at least had the job and the money he said he had. As founder of Adelphia Communications, one of the largest cable companies in America, he really was loaded when he bought the Sabres in 1997. Unfortunately, he just acquired much of his fortune through illegal means. In 2002 he was indicted for bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud and forced to relinquish the team.
Now, at the age of 89, Rigas is in prison serving a 15-year sentence.
4. John Rigas – Buffalo Sabres
At #3 on our list we have our last shady NHL owner, Harold Ballard. He took majority ownership of the Maple Leafs in 1969, and almost immediately was charge with 49 counts of fraud, theft, and tax evasion.
The theft? Yeah, he used team money to pay for all kinds of stuff, like renovations on his homes (plural), limosines for his daughter's wedding, and motorcycles for his sons.
Ballard was convicted in 1970 and sentenced to nine years in prison. However, he still owned the Leafs, and went he got on parole after serving three years he went back to running the team...and proceeded to run the once-proud franchise into the ground.
3. Harold Ballard – Toronto Maple Leafs
When is comes to being a crazy old racist, Donald Sterling really has nothing on the late Marge Schott. She called Eric Davis and Dave Parker her "million-dollar n*****s"; she said "sneaky godd**mn Jews are all alike"; and she said Hitler "was good in the beginning, but went too far."
Also, FYI, she let her St. Bernads (which were always named "Schottzie") take dumps all over Riverfront Stadium.
In 1996, MLB banned Schott for life, but she sold her stake in team in 1999.
2. Marge Schott – Cincinnati Reds
In case you didn't realize it, Silvio Berlusconi, the biggest scumbag in Italy, just so happens to own its most famous soccer team.
Of course, you probably know Berlusconi as the former Italian Prime Minister. However, he made his fortune as a media tycoon, and he basically doesn't do anything within the limits of the law.
Last August he was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from public office for life. However, there are also four other ongoing trials against him: one for abuse of office, one for bribery, one for defamation, and, last but not least, one for soliciting minors for sex. Because yeah, the former Prime Minister of Italy likes to throw orgies as his villa where 20 naked prostitutes would run around in the nude.
Now, obviously, with all that legal trouble, Berlusconi isn't running AC Milan all by himself. His brother, Paulo Berlusconi, is Vice President of the club...and in 2013 he referred to Mario Balotelli as his "ragazzo negro," which means his "little black boy."
1. Silvio Berlusconi – AC Milan
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