It’s July 1st! If you’re in Rwanda, you might be celebrating your country’s independence from Belgium. If you’re in Hong Kong, you might be marking the 20th anniversary from when the British ceded control of the city to China. If you’re Liv Tyler, Missy Elliot or Dan Aykroyd, happy birthday! If you’re Bobby Bonilla, congratulations! You’re $1.2 million richer thanks to the New York Mets and a contract you signed decades ago that technically makes you one of the highest-paid people on the team’s roster today.
If you have no idea what we are talking about, today is Bobby Bonilla Day. Thanks to what has been described as “the greatest contract in sports history”, today is the day that The Mets are contractually obligated to send $1,193,248.20 to Bobby Bonilla, a man who retired from professional baseball around 15 years ago.
We’ve covered this story a bunch over the years, so I don’t want to re-iterate all the details here. If you are interested in long version, please read this article:
The long story, short, is that back in 1999, the Mets were fed up with Bobby and wanted him off the team. The only problem was that they still owed him $5.9 million. They could have simply paid him that money and been done with it, but Bobby came to team owner Fred Wilpon with a proposal. A proposal that would turn out to be brilliant.
Wanting to avoid becoming one of those cliche athletes who goes broke in retirement, Bobby offered to defer his $5.9 million for 11 years (til 2011), at which point, The Mets would pay him $29.8 million in 25 annual installments (through the year 2035). The Mets also would agree to release Bobby from his current deal which allowed him to play two more seasons in the MLB, earning another $200k from the Braves and $900k from the Cardinals.
Team owner Wilpon jumped at the offer because he happened to be one of Bernie Madoff’s biggest investors. Wilpon calculated that if he simply invested that $5.9 million with Madoff, by the time 2035 rolled around, it would have grown to around $70 million. Way more than the $29.8 million Bobby was asking for.
It was an easy yes from both parties. Unfortunately for Wilpon, Madoff was a fraud. The $300 million he THOUGHT he had earned investing with Madoff over the years didn’t exist, and he actually may have LOST around $700 million.
This is how the Bobby Bonilla woke up today $1.2 million richer. Something that will happen every July 1st for the next 16 years.
Way to go Bobby!