End to sweetheart deal in sight for Nets, ABA brethren

Brooklyn Nets

Every year, the Nets, along with the other three surviving ABA teams, receive about $5 million less in TV revenues  than their NBA counterparts, the result of a nearly 40-year-old deal that the league is once again trying to get out of.

When the ABA and NBA merged, the four teams that entered the NBA, including the Nets, agreed to give 1/7th of their national TV revenue to Ozzie and Daniel Silna, owners of one of the teams left behind, the Spirits of St. Louis. In return, the Spirits agreed to go out of business. No one thought much of it, but it became perhaps the best deal in the history of sports.

As those TV rights have grown, the Nets have lost money and a competitive advantage.  In recent years, the Nets received around $26 million annually after paying off the Spirits' owners, the two Silna brothers. The Knicks, for example, received $31 million. The Silnas receive about $19 million every year from the Nets, Nuggets, Spurs and Pacers a total of $300+ million since the merger. That's a loss of $75 million for the Nets. Now, finally there may be an end to the agreement.

Richard Sandomir, who covers sports business for the Times, reports Tuesday that under the terms of an agreement to be announced as soon as this morning, the Silnas will received a lump sum payment of as much as half a billion from the NBA.  The four former ABA teams will form a partnership with the Silnas under which they will receive some money from the league. But as part of the deal, the four can ultimately buy out the brothers.

The settlement was driven by a judge's ruling that the Silnas have the right to the same percentage of revenue from the league's other media, NBA.com, NBA TV and League Pass.

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