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In truth Borg was only just entering reality. Upon departing from tennis, he said it would be nice to wake up in his sumptuous apartment in Monaco, overlooking Cap Martin, and know that he didn't have to practice. What happened was that he woke up to a terrible void. "He didn't know what to do; he didn't know his place," says Mariana. "It was so sad. Bjorn would watch TV, then go out with the night people. He wanted to have another life, but he'd say, 'What am I going to do now?' "
What he came up with over the next few years was some promotion work for the Swedish tourist board and SAS, and a disastrous foray into a bewildering swamp known as business. Soon there was Bjorn Borg Enterprises, a holding company for various ventures, including Bjorn Borg Invest, which dealt mainly in real estate, and the Bjorn Borg Design Group, which designed and marketed sportswear; it also developed and marketed a cologne and an after-shave. They may or may not have smelled like green grass and red clay; they didn't last long enough for anybody to find out.
In addition Borg cut himself off from his support group, his roots; from his mentor-gofer, Bergelin; from Mariana, whom he divorced the year after he announced his retirement; and from his advisers at the International Management Group, who had expanded his $3.6 million in winnings into an estimated personal fortune of $75 million. Borgologists say that after a number of business setbacks, a divorce and various and sundry lawsuits, nearly three fourths of that money is now gone. But it is folly to think of Borg as some old pug boxing champion whose fortune was squandered by dishonest strangers.
The stoic, conservative Borg was always drawn to risk takers, people with reckless personalities the opposite of his own. When he was playing, that group included three of the game's best-known playboys: Adriano Panatta of Italy, Vitas Gerulaitis of the U.S. and the dark prince of crazy, Romania's Ilie Nastase. In his new life he gravitated back to Sweden and to Christer Gustafsson, a public relations man he had met at a disco and with whom he later sailed Sweden's archipelago; Eric Steiner, a professional poker player who ran the White Elephant gambling club in London; and Onni Nordstrom, an agent who threw celebrity-studded parties for Borg and who would sign Don Johnson to endorse a Swedish ice cream.
But, again, they are not to blame. "Bjorn take bad advice?" says Mariana, laughing. "A person who never took a piece of advice in his whole life can't have advisers, good or bad."
In 1985, Borg sold a 25% share of Bjorn Borg Enterprises to Lars Skarke, a former office-supply salesman in Sweden and an executive of a sports-marketing company called Projekthus. According to the respected Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter, others in the business world often refer to Skarke as Skurke (Swedish for "scoundrel"), and Borg's lawyer, Henning Sjostrom, told the same paper that Skarke's dealings with Borg "came close to being a swindle. Those who played with Borg's assets have done it for their personal use. They have lived high on his money."
The Swedish magazine Hant reported that Skarke preferred private planes, helicopters and limousines to standard transportation, and that even after Bjorn Borg Enterprises fell upon hard times in 1989, Skarke's country manor on Ekero, an island near Stockholm, still housed luxury cars and Arabian horses. Hunt also reported that Skarke used Borg's money to bestow on his partner birthday gifts of water mopeds and stereos. Skarke denies any improprieties and says that the only gift he bought his partner was a dog. And after the Borg ventures folded, it was Skarke who filed suit, demanding $12 million in damages from Borg and telling reporters that Borg "stole my 25 percent in the company." Borg declined to be interviewed for this story.
Whatever the facts of the dispute with Skarke, Borg's ex-wife, for one, views Borg as a victim. "Bjorn was like a fish in with sharks," says Mariana. (She did not say Skarkes.) "But if he had stayed with IMG, none of this would have happened. All he wanted to do was go back to Sweden and prove he could do it on his own."
That also meant minus Mariana. When he was playing, women were as foreign to Borg as literature. Or business. Oh, he was tennis's first sex throb for teenyboppers, but all those libidinous squealers were merely fans to be shooed away by Bergelin while Borg got on with his practice and his early curfew.
In '84 Borg as stud-entrepreneur went traipsing about the globe, living on the edge. He posed for paparazzi with party lizardettes like London's Mandy Smith and judged beauty contests, one of which included an aspiring model from Stockholm named Jannike Bjorling. When Mariana read in the International Herald Tribune that her husband had shown up in Hawaii in August 1984 with Bjorling, who was 17 at the time, she called him on the phone. "Scumpo," he said to her, "I'm sorry. I'm not coming back."