SI Vault
July 13, 1998
Sid Luckman, 1916-1998Thanks for Everything
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July 13, 1998


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Paternity Follow-up
Braves Judge Benches Himself

The Feb. 9 child support hearing of Atlanta Braves outfielder Andruw Jones was marred by the inappropriate remarks of Georgia superior court judge Joel Fryer, who praised Jones, saying, among other things, "he's magnificent" and "he's going to play much better this year" (SCORECARD, June 29). One day after an SI reporter attempted to contact Fryer to question him about those remarks, the judge removed himself from the case to "avoid any appearance of prejudice or bias for or against anyone," as he wrote in the recusal order.

"This probably helps our case, based on...statements [Fryer] made about my client," says Andrea Henson, lawyer for Jacquelyn Barnett, the mother of the baby girl who—DNA tests show with 99.97% certainty—is Jones's. Jones's attorney would not comment on Fryer's recusal. A new judge has not yet been assigned for the final hearing, which likely will not take place before the end of the baseball season.

Baseball Investing
Thomas Secures His Future

The barbarians are at the gates. Of Comiskey Park. If the final details can be ironed out with SPP Hambro & Co., a New York City investment banking firm, Frank Thomas, the Chicago White Sox slugger known as the Big Hurt and soon, perhaps, as the Big Board, will no longer be a mere designated hitter but a living, breathing security.

The deal: Thomas hopes to raise $20 million by offering investors...Frank Thomas. According to the Investment Dealers' Digest, SPP Hambro would issue bonds in Thomas's name backed by his Sox contract, which guarantees him an annual salary of $7 million through 2006. This method of raising cash isn't unheard of in the entertainment world—the Motown songwriting team of Holland, Dozier and Holland, for example, recently sold $30 million of securities backed by its royalties, and David Bowie financed his tour last summer with a similar plan—but it is virgin territory for an athlete.

Individuals cannot invest in this big-bucks rotisserie offering. The likely scenario is that an insurance company or a bank will buy all the bonds (in effect giving Thomas a $20 million loan) and then hope to make a profit from the interest the bonds pay (probably about 4.5 points above the Treasury rate, or about 9% as of Monday). Thomas, who owns a record company and Big Hurt Enterprises, which oversees his charitable organization, has not disclosed what he plans to do with the money. But he's apparently confident he can earn more by investing it than he will pay out in interest. The risk for investors is mat Thomas might not receive his guaranteed salary, either because of labor unrest or because of a violation of the morals clause in his contract.

It's a good thing nothing about this deal is tied to Thomas's on-field performance: At week's end the 6'5", 270-pound security was trundling along with a .275 batting average and only 14 homers.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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