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Stop me if you’ve heard this one: team owner to get divorce, finds himself in sea of financial troubles

Oct 7, 2011, 1:30 PM EDT

stack of money

A team owner with nine houses and three-dozen other properties scattered around the world? Crazy spending on cars and baubles? An acrimonious divorce that could impact the course of the franchise? Nah, not Los Angeles.  Seattle.

Geoff Baker has the story of Mariners’ minority owner Chris Larson. A man who, it has long been thought, would one day take over the team from absentee owner Hiroshi Yamauchi. A man who, despite being worth millions, has racked up debts of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. Because, despite owning some 19 million shares of Microsoft stock from his days as an early-employee, Larson borrowed against them to invest in real estate and live what appears to be a crazy-extravagant lifestyle.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand rich people. Not at all.  The way it should work is that you get rich. You get a nice place to live. One nice place. Maybe one for your parents if they’re still around.  Buy a decent car. Take some trips. Eat at some nice restaurants and go to ballgames.  You should be able to manage all of that on the rounding error of a fortune amassed by 19 million shares of Microsoft stock.

Why does it always have to be so complicated?

  1. channingtaintum - Oct 7, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Greed is a hell of a drug.

    • marshmallowsnake - Oct 7, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      Seriously….I would have cashed out at Billionaire status!

  2. marshmallowsnake - Oct 7, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    I would think you would need two places to live, maybe a boat (or plane if you are a pilot), a RV to drive from place A to place B, depending on the season for which you live at said spot, and season tickets to your local sports teams…that is how I would roll if buckets of cash existed in my account. (which they do not…sigh).

    Seriously though…19 Million Microsoft shares? WOW! At their peak price, that equals Billionaire! At today’s price, A-Rodaire.

    • Old Gator - Oct 7, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      Beaver will do it to you every time. Chew right through your golden apple tree.

  3. flavius217 - Oct 7, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    This post really needs a picture of Morrissey.

  4. bsputnik - Oct 7, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Note to self,
    If you ever become a millionaire, don’t borrow too much money,


    • bobwsc - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:25 PM

      amen to that.

      -Ric Flair

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:30 PM

        Oh man…that article that Craig posted about Ric Flair was UNBELIEVABLE.

        I had no idea he was such a walking disaster…what a sad end to his career and life.

      • bobwsc - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:44 PM

        it’s sad; he’s going the way of ‘the wrestler.’ broke, mounting bills, and now he has to wrestle to stay afloat. he was a cool novelty – wrestling into his 50’s and taking crazy bumps and blading. now it’s full-on ridiculous.

  5. aceshigh11 - Oct 7, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Couldn’t agree more with those last two paragraphs, Craig.

    I think the issues with most rich people, mainly men, are excessive levels of testosterone and the need to compete for alpha status.

    For these people, it’s not about the money…it’s about competition, status, the thrill of the deal, and acquiring more, more, more.

    A guy like Donald Trump would NEVER cash out his chips and retire to a tropical island the way most of us would…guys like that are just not wired that way. They’re hooked on taking risks like a drug.

  6. APBA Guy - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Microsoft stock peaked at 58.38 in December 1999, the tail end of the dot com boom. That would have made Larson worth about $1.12 Bn. Trouble was, for them, very few people cashed out of the stock. The pervasive feeling was that the stock would keep going up. When it crashed to 21.69 12 months later, again like people at most tech companies, Microsoft employees thought the stock would come back. When I worked briefly at Microsoft in 2001 (to bail them out of a self inflicted problem with a major account), the option price for new employees was 55. To us industry veterans it was apparent that there was no way that strike price would ever be reached. But to people who’d worked their whole careers at MS, they believed. The MS people who administered my contract were flabbergasted when I lined out the stock in favor of more cash.

    So Larson didn’t sell and now he’s only worth $ 494M at today’s $26/share price.

    Too bad. Even with his debts he’s still $250M ahead.

    That’s no longer majority ownership money, but I, and most of the commenters here, would take it. Especially as a payout for just doing our jobs.

    Because remember, that’s what options for most employees in a start-up are: a trade of time for lottery tickets. Most people work hard. To get such exceptional rewards is like winning the lottery. It is NOT the universal force showering approval on you for exceptional anything, except luck.

    Unless you’re the founder or the key designer, or course. Which Larson was not.

    So, no sympathy here.

    • hackerjay - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:15 PM

      Microsoft split 2:1 in 2003. If Lason still has all of his original shares it would be worth more like $988 million.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 7, 2011 at 3:27 PM

        I have found that reading the article helps…and it really helps when you are going to try to correct someone else’s post…who has actually read the article 😀

        “Documents show Larson joined Microsoft in 1975 as a high-school summer intern to Bill Gates and Paul Allen, then full time after graduating from Princeton University in 1981. He received 56,600 shares of stock that split 10 times (including once before Microsoft went public in 1986) into 19 million shares by 2003.”

  7. cleverbob - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

  8. shaggylocks - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:13 PM


    • dailyrev - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      Nailed it. Often a single word says more than a ten screen scroll of rants. This one does it — for those of us who remember, of course.

  9. bennettar - Oct 7, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    It is becoming increasingly apparent that some sort of screening process (or a better one if it already exists) is needed for these out-of-control rich folks looking to be a (part) owner of a pro team. Can there be some legal stipulations built into ownership agreements that cover these messy situations? I know each divorce or extravagant lifestyle is unique, but these guys (I am lumping McCourt in with this joker) are messing with a multi-billion dollar industry and the livelihood of many people.

    • theotherfamousamos - Oct 7, 2011 at 3:03 PM

      What would this stipulation say? You can’t get divorced? You can’t be an extravagant, guilty pig? You have to be smart with your money? Come on!

      • bennettar - Oct 7, 2011 at 3:23 PM

        My knowledge of the legal proceedings surrounding owning a team or getting a divorce is limited. I was implying that perhaps the league should limit the amount of debt these guys have as well as become very familiar with the types of investments/assets they are holding. Maybe there is a good set of rules in place and they just need to be better judges of character.

        As for divorce, I am not suggesting that it not be allowed. What I am suggesting is a clause or some other type of protection be put in place for married owners so we don’t end up with the “who actually owns the team?” debacle the Dodgers/McCourts are sorting through. Split their ownership or put it in one name… I don’t know the answer but years of lawsuits – while fans and team personnel wait for the storm to pass – don’t seem like a good solution.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 7, 2011 at 3:28 PM

        How about a CASH ONLY sign in the front of MLB’s offices? 😛

  10. andrebeingandre16 - Oct 7, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    at least its a minority owner. mccourt sadly owns all of the dodgers 😦

  11. foreverchipper10 - Oct 7, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    It’s the damn salt water pools I tell ya!

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