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OFF BEAT: ABA franchise owners net $500M settlement with NBA

January 9, 2014 - 2:50pm


Danny and Ozzie Silna have cashed out — big — in the settlement of a monetary dispute with the National Basketball Association dating back to the 1970s.

The owners of one of the original American Basketball Association franchises, the Spirits of St. Louis, netted $500 million in the settlement on top of the $300 million they had collected previously.

That’s the better part of a $1billion for never owning an NBA franchise.

When the NBA in 1976 took in four teams from the then-imploding ABA — the New York (now Brooklyn) Nets, the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs — the senior league offered a one-time payment of $3 million to the owners of the two ABA teams not being absorbed: the Spirits and the Kentucky Colonels, owned by John Y. Brown, who took the $3 million while the Silna brothers balked.

Instead, they settled for a share of NBA “visual media” rights, the same deal given to the four teams joining the league. The recent deal settled all outstanding claims, including a suit brought last year seeking additional compensation due to changes in the media since 1976.

The settlement paying the Silnas $500 million will be financed through a private placement of notes by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Merrill Lynch, three people with direct knowledge of the agreement told The New York Times earlier this month.

NBA officials declined to comment because the settlement must be approved by Judge Loretta A. Preska, who has presided over the case in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, according to the newspaper.

The Spirits of St. Louis also have another long-standing sports legacy: It was with the team that veteran sportscaster Bob Costas began his career.