It has already been one of the most remarkable rags to riches and then back to rags - with a bankruptcy on top - stories ever, and it is getting more bizarre by the day.
Boris Becker/ Reuters
Becker shot to fame when he won Wimbledon aged just 17 and went on to win a total of six Grand Slam titles, including a further two Wimbledon titles, two Australian Opens, and a US Open crown, before retiring in 1999 aged just 31 and moving into business. Alas, here the fairy tale ends, and according to claims in the German media, Boris Becker may have lost a substantial portion of his roughly €50 million fortune in part because of questionable investments in the Nigerian oil industry.
Yes, Becker fell pray to the infamous Nigerian scam.
Spiegel claimed that it has seen details of a single investment of “more than $10m” in Nigerian oil prepared for Becker by Forbes & Manhattan, a Canadian investment bank and a former associate of the tennis player. Furthermore, the world's former top tennis player had extensive links outside the world of tennis that ranged from African leaders to Laxmi Mittal, the Indian steel billionaire, to John Mahama, the former president of Ghana, and was seen as some one who could facilitate business deals.
Whatever the details of Becker's business dealings, they proved to be a total disaster, and in June, the former tennis idol was declared bankrupt in a London court after a private London bank claimed it was owed almost £10 million. During the bankruptcy proceedings, John Briggs, Becker’s lawyer, told the court: “He is not a sophisticated individual when it comes to finances.”
Now, thanks to The Times we learn that Becker was forced to borrow £2 million from a British telecoms tycoon after he was warned that he could be jailed because of mounting debts totalling £50 million. As a result, Becker is forced to sell his Wimbledon trophies and has been ordered not to remove them and other memorabilia from his £7 million home in London as they could be seized for auction.
Becker was forced to go cap in hand to John Caudwell, the billionaire co-founder of Phones 4U. The pair had been introduced by a financial adviser who contacted Mr Caudwell, 64, about three years ago saying that Becker needed a loan. It was agreed with an interest rate apparently of 25 per cent.
The pair became friends after being introduced by the businessman’s former financial adviser, Nathalie Dauriac-Stoebe. In about 2014 Ms Dauriac-Stoebe allegedly contacted Mr Caudwell, whose daughter, Rhiannon, worked as a PA in Becker’s London office, saying the former Wimbledon champion needed an urgent loan. “Nathalie said if you don’t give him a loan then there is a strong chance he [Becker] could go to jail in Spain,” a spokesman for Mr Caudwell said.
The businessman agreed to lend Becker £2 million with an interest rate suitable for a “high risk, short-term loan”. Mr Caudwell’s spokesman said the loan was repaid, although later than agreed. It helped keep the scale of Becker’s troubles confidential but in June the pretence was over when the Bankruptcy and Companies Court in London declared him bankrupt after a 30-minute hearing. Registrar Christine Derrett said there was “no credible evidence” that Becker would raise the money to settle his “substantial” debt and he gave the “impression of a man rather burying his head in the sand”.
It has been an amazing fall from grace for Becker, 49, once one of the richest sportsmen in the world, with an estimated fortune of €50 million. According to the Times, Becker is left with assets of only €540,000 (£481,483), based on reports in the German press. The money he earned on the court was spent on a divorce, an extravagant lifestyle, failed business projects and settling unpaid tax bills. He now works as a commentator for the BBC and other media.
Details of Becker’s financial predicament are included in a report by the accountants appointed to administer his affairs after he was declared bankrupt, when he failed to repay a loan to the London private bankers Arbuthnot Latham & Co. His debts were said to include €38.4 million owed to Hans-Dieter Cleven, a Swiss businessman and his long-term business adviser.
Smith & Williamson, the accountants, are said to have concluded it is “probable” that other creditors will emerge. Becker’s lawyer, Christian-Oliver Moser, said that the alleged debt of £54.1 million was “vehemently denied” with the true figure being “significantly lower”.
The German tennis champion knew where to turn when he feared that his financial incompetence was once again leading to the threat of jail. Mr Caudwell agreed to the huge loan which enabled Becker to juggle the demands of banks, an ex-wife and lover and business partners while maintaining his jet-set lifestyle.
Alas, the balls came crashing down with his bankruptcy in the summer and the scale of his problems was laid bare yesterday with reports in Germany that he owes more than £54.4 million. The £10.5 million owed to private bankers Arbuthnot Latham, who secured his bankruptcy, was described as the “tip of the iceberg”.
Meanwhile, when netting out his debt, Becker's net worth is barely in the green. According to his bankruptcy administrators, Smith & Williamson, and valuations of his assets by experts from Wyles Hardy & Co which show the level of his debts, Becker's assets are just €540,000, reported German magazine Stern. At the time of his bankruptcy Becker reportedly had £5,000 in his own bank account with another £35,000 in a joint account, presumably with his wife, Lilly.
This does not include the Becker family home in Wimbledon, south London; an apartment in the capital occupied by Angela Ermakova, the mother of his daughter, Anna, who was conceived in an infamous one-night stand at Nobu; and the house were his mother lives in Leimen, Germany.
Prior to being declared bankrupt, Becker had asked for the case to be adjourned for 28 days to raise a £6 million mortgage on a villa he owned in Majorca, although it has emerged that he allegedly owes €5.4 million to his company, which owns the property.
Becker’s lawyer, Christian-Oliver Moser, told Bild newspaper that the accountants’ report was “preliminary” based on claims by creditors which would not “withstand greater legal scrutiny”. He replied “no” when asked if Becker was worried about the threat of having to sell his Wimbledon trophies. The first of those was won in 1985 when Becker became the youngest gentleman’s singles winner at the age of 17 and 227 days.
He had no idea that he had just won £130,000 and the financial naivety he demonstrated following that first win has persisted. Within a decade his career was on the wane and he was in trouble with the German tax authorities. In 1999 came an incident which was to scar both his reputation and his bank balance after he crashed out of Wimbledon in the fourth round.
The slide continued: while his wife, Barbara, was in hospital expecting their second child, Becker was seducing Angela Ermakova at the Nobu restaurant in London. DNA confirmed that he was the father of Ms Ermakova’s daughter and the subsequent divorce and child maintenance cost him almost £20 million. In 2002 Becker avoided jail in Germany for tax evasion after repaying €3 million.
Now, in a last ditch step, Becker is reportedly set to sell his Grand Slam trophies and a large chunk of his property catalogue. The German is hoping to raise money through selling his various tennis trophies that made him a household name, along with luxury watches. His championship cups are expected to raise $1 million alone. According to the Sun, the 49-year-old has reluctantly agreed to sell off his trophies having accepted “the time for sentimentality has passed,” according to the Sun, which also reported that Becker's Swiss ex-business partner has gone to court demanding $40 million.
During his playing days, Becker began to develop a real estate portfolio; after ending his tennis career, Becker moved into business, including opening three Mercedes car dealerships and becoming a brand ambassador (not for very long). Alas, some seeds of the upcoming financial disaster emerged early on, most notably when he lent his name to ‘Boris Becker Tower’, a 23-story residential and commercial tower located in Business Bay, Dubai, which was a financial disaster.
Becker, who resides in Switzerland some of the year, divorced his first wife Barbara Feltus in 2001: she received a $19 million settlement and a condominium on Fisher Island in Florida, as well as custody of their two children. Becker now lives with his second wife, Dutch model Lilly, in Wimbledon, the same district of London that was the stage of his first great tennis achievement.
The former champion on Friday posted a quote to his Twitter account that read, “Don’t waste moments thinking about the past, the best is yet to come.”
For Becker, that may no longer be the case.