A year or so later, Stewart met the late Ken Tureaud, a Tulsa businessman who was trying to serve as an intermediary in bringing Dorsett to the Los Angeles Express of the USFL. Stewart says that Tureaud offered stock options in an oil exploration deal. "I went crazy," concedes Stewart. "I was a charging bull. I didn't see the sword. I was blinded. He told me we were going to make $3 million to $4 million in 90 days." Dorsett got up his money—the $238,000 from his deferred pay settlement, $175,000 from the bank in Richardson and $107,000 cash he had on hand.
"If this don't work," he told Stewart, "I'm gonna kick your ass because this is all of my money."
Said Stewart, "It will work. But if it doesn't, I'll pay you back." It flopped dreadfully. But true to his word, in a business where words don't count for much, Stewart is reimbursing Dorsett slowly. "He said he would pay me back," says Dorsett, "and I believe him." Stewart says he has already returned some $200,000. "I feel so responsible," he says. "I made a poor judgment. However, I will get him out clean."
But Dorsett is, for now, cash poor. His predicament wasn't eased when another IRS lien—this to cover unpaid 1983 taxes—was slapped on Dorsett's Dallas houses (one is worth $800,000; the other, which he is trying to sell, is listed for $280,000) for $167,448.
•Poor results on commercial endorsements. Poor, that is, by superstar standards. Dorsett has a six-year, $500,000 Converse shoe deal, signed in 1982, that Stewart negotiated. But he doesn't have much else. Unproved but widely circulated rumors about possible cocaine use by Dorsett and several other Cowboys, fueled by a federal investigation in 1983, didn't help him get endorsements.
•Other questionable business deals. For example, he recently cosigned a lease on a computer store for a friend. The friend went bust. The settlement cost Dorsett $48,000 and 15 autographed footballs. Even today, he is looking into deals involving vitamins, sweatsuits, hotel thermostats, burglar- and fire-alarm system (for a second time) and insurance. All perfectly legitimate, of course, but do Dorsett and his advisers have the savvy to make a go of them? Dorsett sounds almost fatalistic about his investments, saying, "You don't invest to lose. I would have liked to have done better. But the probability is that these are not the last investments I'll lose money on."
Johnny Majors, Dorsett's coach at Pitt, says, "The shame of all this is Tony could have put all his money in nine percent savings and never had to work another day in his life. I'm just guessing he got the wrong advice."
Musing about his situation, Dorsett said, "The important thing is to surround yourself with a good team, people you can trust. But I can tell you they are hard to find. I've always said the only two things you have to do are pay taxes and die. I sure do know about them taxes."
Larry Wansley, an ex-FBI agent and the Cowboys' director of counseling, says he talked to Dorsett last season and was told, "I don't have a need for financial planning." Other players understand. Former Cowboy Butch Johnson, now with the Denver Broncos, says, "We make these mistakes because we're young, not dumb." And Dallas quarterback Danny White is pensive about Dorsett's plight: "It strikes close to home for all of us. By the time an athlete learns how to invest, it's too late."
Larry Hercules, a Dallas tax attorney who works with athletes, says, "The athlete thinks of himself as absolutely rich. And time moves slowly when you're young. You don't think you're going to be old somewhere down the road, so you don't plan."