Before reading this story please repeat one hundred times after me the following quote from Bruce Mitchell of the Pro Wrestling Torch that "Ric Flair has amassed, over several decades, a record of performance in the ring that makes him hands down the greatest pro wrestler who ever lived".
Now that we've gotten that context out of the way, we can focus on his current plight. His financial disputes with Ring Of Honor, Highspots and Greg Price have been well documented already on Cageside Seats. It has now been exposed that his financial dealings outside of wrestling are just as duplicitous and messy. By trawling through legal documents pertaining to Flair from the Mecklenburg County courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, Shane Ryan of Grantland.com has constructed a very detailed timeline that illustrates how one of the highest paid wrestlers of the last 35 years got in so much debt that he recently faced home eviction. The piece reveals that although he was duped into a series of bad financial investments, Flair was also a big spender who has increasingly bought goods and services with no intent of paying for them until demanded, took out loans with no intention of repaying them until sued and skipped paying taxes completely.
David Bixenspan of Bleacher Report has already done a great rundown of the bags of new information to be found in the piece which is well worth reading, but he couldn't possibly cover everything, so I'm going to do my own version, which will somewhat overlap with his recap. Remember this account doesn't include the aforementioned problems within wrestling. Full details after the jump:
- One must now question whether he should even be cleared to wrestle by TNA, as Ryan claims Flair is suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease caused by long term alcohol abuse.
- Flair's financial problems began in 1996 when Macrolease International obtained a default judgment against Flair for failing to pay $66,000 in gym equipment and fees for a Gold's Gym he owned. The next year, a local painter won a $1,500 judgement for work on Flair's home that he had refused to pay for.
- There were no further financial problems until March 2000 when Branch Banking and Trust (BB&T) received a default judgment for over $20,000 for a loan that Flair had failed to repay. In May 2002, Flair was sued by Troy Wilkinson for $22,500 over failure to pay him his share of a gym they ran together.
- The Plane Ride From Hell lawsuit, where two flight attendants accused Ric Flair of indecent exposure and his colleagues Scott Hall and Dustin "Goldust" Runnels of unwanted sexual advances on an infamous journey from the UK in 2002, was quietly settled by WWE out of court, which I don't think has ever been confirmed before.
- The shit really hit the fan in 2004 when the federal government issued a lien on Flair's property for $874,000 in back taxes from 1994-'96 and 1998-'99.
- The lawsuits then started flooding in thick and fast. In July 2004, Ward Cagle sued Flair for failure to pay back a loan from the year 2000 for $40,000. They settled out of court for $10,000 and a motorcycle. In 2005, Peter Wirth put a lien on Flair's home in Charlotte for $107,000 in unpaid work done on that house. Later that year he was sued BB&T again for failing to repay $35,000 of a $400,000 loan given to Flair in 1998 for opening a business that operated his Gold's Gym called "Flair With Wood" in Hickory, North Carolina (hickory wood - get it?). He eventually paid up despite blaming his erstwhile partners for the debt.
- By the time of Flair's divorce with second wife Beth, together they owed over a million dollars. Most of those debts stayed with Flair and were aggravated by her alimony. Eventually Flair would owe her over $700,000.
- Speaking of Beth, her financial naivete cost Flair dearly. In a complicated web of lies, their financial adviser Scott Storick and his cronies fraudulently convinced Beth to ditch perfectly good life insurance policies in favour of new ones on a near annual basis, faultily advised her to buy annuities for debt purposes and convinced them to invest in bogus real estate projects. This cost them both a ton of money.
- In 2006, Conbraco Industries, who provided Flair with the capital to open ten Gold's Gyms, filed suit over his failure to repay back a substantial loan. They won a favourable judgment of $185,000 plus interest and $10,000 in lawyers fees. In an ongoing suit, Fink's Jewellers claims Flair owes them $81,000 plus interest.
- In October 2007, Flair was loaned by local restaurant owner Greg Leon for $47,750. Leon claims Flair and his fiancee Tiffany Vandemark offered to give him her $100,000 engagement ring as collateral for the loan, which he declined. Instead, he was given a Rolex watch, a boat and a motorcycle, only to find out that the latter two items had no proper title when he attempted to sell them to reclaim the money owed. Despite winning a full judgment against Flair, Leon is still waiting for the full amount to be repaid.
- 2008 was a complete disaster. There was a $5,000 judgment for unpaid golf club fees, a $33,859 judgment for unpaid private school tuition fees for son Reid, a suit by C&G Leasing for $130,000 plus interest owed on yet another unpaid loan and a suit by his former attorney William K. Diehl for $180,000 in unpaid legal fees. Chris Porter, his business partner for Ric Flair Finance, also sued him for $115,000 from a largely unpaid loan, but in this case it seems that Flair was right not to pay the money back as Porter's business model was "completely illegal" and the company was shutdown for failing to have a broker / lender license.
- Worse was yet to come, as Flair's divorce with third wife Tiffany was a hell of a lot messier than was let on at the time, as he had to file assault (for hitting him with a mobile phone charger) and stalking charges against her. By this time Flair's debts totalled a whopping $1.7 million.
- In 2010, Flair was hit with a local and a federal government action for continuing to fail to pay his taxes. These were for $45,000 and $627,758, respectively.
- This year hasn't been any better. He's been sued for $88,000 in yet more unpaid legal fees, owes Wells and Donna Hall $17,000 for unpaid rent and damage to their property, owes $4,000 to the Morehead Inn for a party he threw for his daughter Ashley, and faced eviction from his most recent home for being $4,542 behind in paying the rent.