The athlete life is the envy of many. You get to play a game for millions of dollars, you get perks and benefits that the average person doesn't, and you marry some of the most beautiful women in the world. You have a seemingly perfect life...and then you get hit with divorce papers.
That is what has happened to some of the biggest sports names in the world. From the NBA to the NFL to pro golfers to team owners; no one is immune to coming out on the wrong end of a divorce settlement. Some have lost houses and cars while others have lost planes and yachts. But they all have lost money...lots and lots of money!
Some of the names on this list are obvious as their divorce proceedings were quite public. Others are just coming into the light of day after the athlete tried to keep them hush-hush. Athletes may exhibit complete control on their field/court of choice, but when they are served those papers, they become powerless at the feet of the divorce judge. With that being said, here are the top 15 athlete divorcees who ended up with more than the athlete.
15 Bernie Kosar and Babette Kosar
When Bernie and Babette divorced, the former Browns’ ex-wife walked away with $3 million in a divorce settlement. That may not seem like much compared to others on this list but you have to remember that Kosar played mostly in the 1980s when salaries were much lower. That $3 million accounted for about one-third of his total NFL salary. On top of that, Babette later sold the couple’s former Ohio home for another $2.4 million and walked away with almost all of Bernie’s sports memorabilia.
What makes this even more amazing is the fact that Kosar is a bright guy and someone you would expect to handle financial situations well. He graduated from the University of Miami in three years with a double major in finance and economics! I suppose all of the education in the world can’t properly prepare one for the economics of a messy divorce.
14 Lance Armstrong and Kristin Richard
One year before he would start his run of seven straight Tour de France wins, Armstrong married Richard and the couple had three kids together. However, after five years together, the couple divorced in 2003. Armstrong would go on to win a couple more Tours de France but not before losing $14 million in the divorce settlement. It wouldn’t be until 2012 that Armstrong would be outed for doping and lose all of his Tour de France victories. He would also lose every single one of his endorsements including eight in a single day. While the amount he lost at the time seemed like a lot, that $14 million he lost to his wife is chump change compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars he lost from the endorsements.
13 Charlie Bell and Kenya Bell
In case you didn’t know, Charlie was the athlete and Kenya was the spouse. Charlie Bell was a journeyman NBA player who is best known for being Mateen Cleaves backcourt-mate during Michigan State’s 2000 NCAA Championship team. After his ex-wife, Kenya, filed for divorce in 2012, Charlie was left with little more than his MSU championship ring. Charlie has to shell out $1,000 per month in child support and Kenya got their marital home in her name as well as a home she bought for her parents. But wait, there’s more: Kenya was also awarded over $1.4 million from Charlie’s accounts and gets half of his NBA pension, welfare plan, supplemental benefit plan, retirement plan, and 401K! Even though Kenya is on the VH1 show “Basketball Wives”, Charlie gets none of that money while Kenya basically has Charlie’s entire NBA career.
12 Silvio Berlusconi and Veronica Lario
We head overseas for this one. Berlusconi is the owner of A.C. Milan and also served as Italy’s Prime Minister for nine years. His marriage to Italian actress Veronica Lario lasted for 20 years but she filed for divorce citing extramarital affairs. In order to avoid any messy divorce proceedings, Berlusconi had to give up his luxury home in Milan to her which was valued at $102 million. A Milan court also said that Berlusconi will have to give his ex-wife $36 million per year. In other words, he will have to cough up about $100,000 per day to his ex-wife. Fortunately for him, he can likely afford it as he is Italy’s sixth richest man and A.C. Milan is the second most valuable soccer club in Italy at about $825 million.
11 Jeff Gordon and Brooke Sealey
Gordon raced into Sealey’s life in 1993 after they met in victory lane at the Daytona International Speedway. He was an up-and-coming NASCAR driver while she was a Miss Winston Cup model. They married in 1994 but Sealey then sued for divorce in 2002 citing marital misconduct. After all of the divorce proceedings, Sealey was awarded $15.3 million but it could have been so much, much more.
In court papers she asked for exclusive use of their home in Highland Beach, Florida, two cars, alimony AND periodic use of Gordon’s boats and airplane! Gordon countered that he risked “life and limb” to attain these possessions through his occupation while Sealey then said during the court motions that “NASCAR is a relatively safe occupation.” Apparently, she didn’t see this. Thus, it is safe to say that Gordon got off easy with just having to give up $15.3 million. Gordon would soon make a left turn in his personal life and would eventually wed Belgian model Ingrid Vandebosch.
10 Michael Strahan and Jean Muggli
Somehow, this split was even messier than Kelly and Michael. After seven years of marriage, the former Giants star and his (second) wife divorced. As a part of the settlement, the judge awarded $15 million to Muggli in addition to monthly child support payments of $18,000. The two had twin daughters born in 2004 which means Strahan is on the hook for alimony payments until 2022. I’ll do the math for you: $18,000 a month for 15 years (the twins were 3 at the time of the divorce) equates to $3.24 million in child support payments for Strahan…No wonder the guy has like seven jobs. So why did some toddlers need that much money monthly? According to Muggli, the twins “like to be accessorized” so you can expect to see Strahan on TV for quite some time.
9 Frank McCourt and Jamie Luskin
McCourt was the owner of the Dodgers for eight years before selling to a group consisting of Magic Johnson in 2012. But before selling, he has a nasty split with his ex-wife, Jamie, who was also the Dodgers co-owner. The judge in the divorce case invalidated a post-nuptial agreement that would have given sole ownership of the team to Frank. After two years of he said/she said, the two finally reached a settlement in 2011. (This situation was actually parodied in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO) Jamie would relinquish her co-ownership of the team but she had about 130 million reasons why to do so. This finally ended what was believed to be the most expensive divorce in California history.
8 Mike Tyson and Robin Givens
When the heavyweight champion and actress married in 1988, Tyson was estimated to have $50 million. The two did not sign a prenup and when they divorced a year later, Tyson had to fork over $10 million to Givens. In an interview nearly 20 years after the divorce, Givens would say on the $10 million settlement, “I didn’t receive one dime.” Tyson would win his next two bouts after the divorce but then a fight with Buster Douglas Jr. would turn the boxing world on its head. All of this, combined with drug use and extravagant spending would contribute to Tyson filing for bankruptcy in 2003.
A man who made over $300 million during the course of his career had to file for bankruptcy; not even Antoine Walker can contend with that.
7 Hulk Hogan and Linda Bollea
Hulkamania ran wild on Linda for 24 years before she kicked out of his leg drop in 2007. Linda claimed infidelity on Hogan’s part and the divorce was finalized in 2009. It took two years for the settlement to become public, but Linda ended up with over 70% of the couple’s liquid assets, 40% ownership of Hogan’s companies, and a $3 million “property settlement.” According to USA Today, Linda totaled $7.44 million from the divorce while Hogan took away $2.97 million. Linda also walked away with a Mercedes-Benz, Rolls Royce, Cadillac Escalade, a Corvette, and various off-road vehicles! Needless to say, many were astonished with the haul Linda got. Just imagine the haul she could have pulled in if the divorce happened AFTER Hogan was awarded $115 million from his lawsuit vs. Gawker.
6 Robert Johnson and Sheila Johnson
Johnson was not an athlete but he was the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets franchise. In 2002 Johnson became the first majority African American owner of a Big 4 sports franchise and held that title until selling the team to Michael Jordan in 2010. Robert Johnson was formerly married to Sheila Johnson who happened to be the first African American woman to become a billionaire. The two were married from 1969 to 2001 and while there’s no confirmed reason for the split; Sheila came off very well from the divorce. Sheila received a cool $400 million in the divorce settlement and unlike Robert; she is still in the sports team ownership business as she is the managing partner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
Perhaps the worst part for Robert wasn’t the $400 million he had to cough up; but the fact that the man Sheila is now married to is the judge who presided over her divorce proceedings!
5 Greg Norman and Laura Andrassy
Before there was Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour, there was Greg Norman. No, “The Shark” didn’t reach the professional success that Woods did; but Norman was the Tour’s most popular golfer before Tiger came along. He was the first player in PGA Tour history to surpass $10 million in career earnings and his Greg Norman Golf Course Design has annual sales north of $300 million.
In 1981 when he was just a Tour rookie, Norman married Laura Andrassy and they would remain together for 25 years. When they divorced, Andrassy was awarded a settlement estimated to be $103 million. Even with Norman’s successful business career, that was quite a hit to a man who didn’t have a PGA Tour win in the 10 years prior to the divorce. Norman’s career golf earnings was just over $15 million and his ex-wife walked away with nearly seven times that amount!
4 Roman Abramovich and Irina Vyacheslavovna
Abramovich is the 13th richest person in Russia and owner of Chelsea F.C. which if the 2nd most valuable football club in England. After 16 years together, his ex-wife divorced him amid rumors he was having an affair with Dasha Zhukova, the former girlfriend of tennis pro Marat Safin. There’s no word on if Abramovich and Zhukova ever were together while he was still married, but we do know that they ended up marrying each other after Abramovich’s divorce. However, it was quite a costly divorce as the settlement was about $300 million. Included in the settlement were homes in Britian and Moscow, a private plane, and a yacht. The two divorced in Russia instead of Britian and if they had chosen the UK, then the settlement could have made Vyacheslavovna the world’s richest divorcee as the speculated amount would have been about $5.5 BILLION!! She’ll have to settle for $300 million.
3 Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren
By now you know the details that led up to the split of this super couple, but do you know the details of the divorce settlement? Elin was awarded $100 million in the settlement which was likely pocket change for Woods who was the world’s highest paid athlete as recently as 2013. With that $100 million, Elin purchased a $12 million mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, had the house demolished, and then re-built as it made more economical sense than to remodel it. She also used part of the money to enroll in college and she graduated in 2014.
The hit to Tiger wasn’t necessarily the amount of money he had to give up, but rather the endorsements he had that were affected. The NY Daily News reported that the shareholder loss stemming from Tiger’s affairs likely cost his endorsers between $5 and $12 billion!
2 Michael Jordan and Juanita Jordan
After 17 years of marriage, the Jordans divorced in 2006 citing irreconcilable differences. Juanita would walk away with $168 million which Forbes said was the most costly divorce settlement on public record at the time. Now, $168 million of Michael Jordan's wealth may not seem like much to the average person, but to put it into perspective; Jordan made just $93 million, total, during his NBA career.
But, perhaps, MJ escaped with “just” a $168 million settlement as shortly after the divorce, Michael would become the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets. It wasn’t until Michael shifted from player to owner that he became a billionaire so if Juanita had “clung” to the marriage just a while longer, she could have walked away with even more.
1 Bernie Ecclestone and Slavica Ecclestone
Bernie is the billionaire owner of Formula One and the 4th richest person in the United Kingdom. After 24 years of marriage, he and his wife, a former model, divorced “amicably” with a settlement that doesn’t scream “amicably.” Slavica walked away with somewhere in between 1 and $1.5 billion. However, Bernie appears to have covered his bases and as a part of the settlement, Slavica is paying Bernie $95 million per year so he has some extra spending money.
In unrelated news, the then-82-year-old Bernie then remarried in 2012 to a 35-year-old woman. This came on the heels of Bernie “vowing to remain single” after the disaster with Slavica. What man hasn't said that before? Hopefully this marriage ends better for Bernie than his previous one.