Longtime Malibu resident Ozzie Silna has died at the age of 83.
Silna was given a Malibu Times Dolphin Award in 2002 for his extraordinary generosity. Silna was commonly thought to be the bankroll behind many political and social causes in Malibu. Some of the local causes he contributed to over the years include the Malibu Boys and Girls Club, Malibu High School, Webster Elementary School and Heal the Bay.
As treasurer of the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy, Silna was primarily responsible for the arranging the largest private donation that Malibu received toward the purchase of the Chili Cook-Off Site in 2005 — a $500,000 gift.
Silna is known for his involvement for what is routinely ranked as the greatest sports business deal of all time. In 1976, Silna and his brother Daniel were the owners of the St. Louis Spirits, a professional basketball franchise in the outlaw American Basketball Association (ABA). After years of competing with the dominant NBA for basketball fans, the ABA was folding, and the Spirits were not invited to join the NBA.
The brothers rejected the cash payment. Their lawyer, Donald Schupack, instead made a counteroffer. The four ABA teams joining the NBA — San Antonio, New Jersey, Denver and Indiana — would give the Silnas a one-time payout of $2.23 million. The Silnas would also receive one-seventh of each team’s national broadcast revenues in perpetuity.
The total intake of Ozzie and Daniel Silna from the deal was $300 million. They sold their rights back to the NBA in 2014 for an additional $500 million, making their total earnings $800 million.
I wrote about the Silna brothers here and here focusing on what was referred to above as the greatest sports business deal ever made. By mere coincidence, I once had a chat with Ozzie, and he was a very unpretentious affable fellow. We talked about the ABA and the fact that I actually had some Spirits of Saint Louis basketball cards. One certainly would not suspect that he was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. RIP