The brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna made one of the greatest business deals in history. Perhaps you heard of their professional basketball team, the Spirits of St. Louis? No? Well, the Spirits no longer exist, but they were in business as recently as 2014. Still doesn't ring a bell?
We need to go back to the 1970s, when the fledgling ABA entered the basketball fray with its multi-colored ball and the unthinkable three-point line. The ultimate goal was for the NBA to absorb its competitor, and a deal was finally reached in 1976. One small problem: the NBA only wanted four of the ABA's six teams. The Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits were not needed.
Kentucky's owner took a payout of $3.3 million, but the Silnas took the long approach. They took just $2.2 million, plus 1/7th of the TV revenue of the remaining four teams... in perpetuity. You can see where this is going.
Back then, the NBA got little to no money from television, so you gotta applaud the Silnas' intuition. In the early 1980s, the league took off and became an juggernaut. When the math was worked out, the Silnas were owed two percent of NBA's TV money, despite the Spirits existing on paper only. Over the years, that came out to hundreds of millions. (That Kentucky owner must have been spinning in his grave.)
In 2014, the NBA finally succeeded in buying out the Silnas, terminating the Spirits for good. The price? $500 million. Perhaps the Silnas decided to sell because they lost a lot of money to one Bernie Madoff...
They can't all be great business deals.