By Mike Stetzer
Browns football legend Bernie Kosar filed for bankruptcy protection in a Florida court on Friday, reports Robert Schoenberger, for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Kosar, who played quarterback from the Browns from 1985 to 1993, once famously avoided filing paperwork with the NFL to avoid being drafted by another team, while publicly declaring his desire to play for Cleveland.
The league eventually opted to let Kosar have his way and his $5.2 million contract made him the highest paid player in the team’s history to that point.
Kosar is currently the president of the Cleveland Gladiators arena football team, and his court filing reports debts between $10 million and $50 million, with assets worth between $1 million and $10 million.
In a statement, Kosar’s attorney, Michael J. Kasen said that his client “has become the latest victim of the economic downturn and collapse of the real estate market.”
The owner of the Cleveland Gladiators, Jim Ferraro, says that Kosar has been “taken advantage of by people you would never expect to do that.
I’m not mad [at Kosar] at all.” According to the report, Kosar owes Ferraro $725,000.
In his bankruptcy filing, Kosar reported that more than half of his major debts were connected to real estate investments in Florida, where he played football at the University of Miami and, after his Browns tenure, for the Miami Dolphins.
In Miami, home values tripled between 2000 and 2006, only to drop back to 2003 levels. In March of this year, home values in the area had dropped by 28% in just a year, according to Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index.
In recent months, Kosar had seen three real estate developments go south, leading to debts of $9.7 million to Florida bank for foreclosures on apartments and condo developments in Pinellas County.
These soured investments make up the majority of the former quarterback’s debts, but he owes numerous others, including the Cleveland Browns, who he owes $1.5 million.
He also saw the closure of a Florida steakhouse, and the end of a plan to bring a similar restaurant to Cleveland’s Flats district.
Kosar also owes money to numerous family members and owes his ex-wife $3 million as part of their divorce settlement.
The court filings portray Bernie Kosar as an individual falling behind on payments across the board, including $80,000 in credit card debt.
He owes property taxes in Florida and is selling his Weston-area home for $3.5 million.
Among his more minor creditors were pool servicing companies, jet charter services and an Enterprise rental car outlet.
In his statement, Kasen said that “Bernie is lucky to live in a country that believes in second chances, and [Kosar] plans on overcoming this adversity like he has so many times on the field of play. Bernie is no stranger to being an underdog before and has thrived from this position his entire life.”