Pro Basketball Team Many Fans Probably Haven’t Heard Of Wants a Piece of the NBA’s TV Money

Nov 23, 2011  •  Post A Comment

A professional basketball team that a lot of fans probably have never heard of has asked a federal judge to reopen a decades-old antitrust lawsuit in an effort to gain TV revenue from the National Basketball Association, Bloomberg reports.

The team is the Spirits of St. Louis, a short-lived franchise from the long-defunct American Basketball Association. The team, which has reaped more than $200 million from a 1976 settlement with the NBA, is revisiting a lawsuit filed in 1970, the story notes.

The original suit was filed by NBA players seeking to stop a proposed merger between the two leagues, with the Spirits excluded from a subsequent merger that saw four ABA teams become part of the NBA, the story says. The Spirits agreed in 1976 to give up legal claims in exchange for one-seventh of the TV revenue earned by those four teams: the New Jersey Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers. The settlement guaranteed the TV revenue for the life of the NBA, the story says.

"Since the agreement was approved, the NBA’s international popularity has grown dramatically,” according to legal papers filed Nov. 4 by the Spirits. “The Spirits have not shared in that growth, despite their clear contractual right to do so.”

The Spirits’ former owners, Ozzie and Dan Silna, have earned more than $237 million from the settlement, the article says, citing an estimate from Forbes. They invested some of their money with Bernard Madoff, the con artist now serving a 150-year federal prison sentence, the piece adds.

They’ve also been sued by Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Madoff’s former company, with Picard seeking millions he claims the Silnas took from their Madoff accounts, the piece adds.

The story notes that another former ABA team that was excluded from the 1976 merger, the Kentucky Colonels, settled for a one-time payment of $3 million.

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