Such is the state of romance in the world today that roughly 40 per cent of first marriages end in divorce, and the percentages only get higher when remarriages are thrown in to the picture. Despite their larger than life status and the perception that millions of women around the world admire them every day, professional athletes are no exemption to this rule. If anything, the outrageous amounts of money some athletes make could just make it easier for their marriages to fall apart.
Not only are athletes known for lavish lifestyles that could potentially get a wife a little annoyed, but they also make millions of dollars, which a jilted ex might consider a reasonable payment for the pain their sporting husbands caused. The more money they have, the more disastrous the results can be — pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, for example, lost 70 per cent of his assets, and Michael Jordan lost $168 million cash and a gigantic mansion. Even if the marriage ended relatively peacefully, lawyers these days will do whatever they can to milk every last dime they can out of a divorce, knowing they’ll pay out as well in court fees.
Whatever the reason and no matter how the involved parties felt about things when it was all over, the point is that some of our favorite athletes nearly wound up in the poor house because their marriages went south. Of course, they still had the fame and the fans, who usually helped get them back on their feet, but it’s always a long, lonely upward battle typically won by the ex-wife. Keep reading to learn about 15 athletes who lost it all for love with massive divorce settlements.
15 Michael Jordan — $168 Million + Mansion
Flying across the courts like he was out of this world, Michael Jordan almost immediately earned recognition as one of the best basketball players in history at the start of his career. Fresh out of college, he became the breakout star of the Chicago Bulls by scoring legendary numbers of points in single games. Earning the nickname Air Jordan, MJ also became the face of countless advertising campaigns, most notably his highly lucrative deal with the underwear manufacturer Hanes. Jordan was so successful many publications named him the best athlete of his generation, including ESPN. Thanks in part to his highly lucrative Air Jordan shoe line with Nike and a stock in a number of basketball franchises, Jordan became the first billionaire in NBA history, but his fortune could have come even sooner had it not been for a nasty divorce. After 22 years of marriage, Jordan’s wife Juanita filed for divorce in 2002. By the time things were settled four years later, she was awarded $168 million, a huge mansion, and custody of their kids in the largest divorce agreement in sports history.
14 Sugar Ray Leonard — $50 Million + $50,000/Month
Those who were alive during Sugar Ray Leonard’s peak can never forget the fervor he caused in boxing, especially during his landmark 1980 feud against fellow champion class athlete Roberto Durán. Leonard didn’t win every fight, but he won most of them, and enough to hold five weight division’s world titles, including the undisputed welterweight title, making him one of the greatest and most celebrated boxers of his era. Unfortunately, boxing took its toll on him and lead to an early retirement, at which point he admitted to turning to substances to cope with the situation. This was a nightmare for his wife, Juanita, who claimed he also became physically abusive at this time. Understandably, she wanted out, and though the exact details were not released, it’s clear she was restituted well for the pain suffered in their relationship. Sugar Ray was reported as being worth $50 million when the basically split everything in half, plus she got another $50,000 per month in alimony. Strangely, rather than act bitter, Leonard kissed his ex goodbye in front of the courthouse after a deal was announced.
13 Lance Armstrong — $14 Million
Thanks to an extremely high profile doping scandal, the once extremely respected Lance Armstrong is now somewhat of a pariah in the sporting world. The former cycling superstar will never even have a chance to rebuild his career, having been banned from further athletic competition after finally coming clean about how he won the Tour de France seven times in a row. Believe it or not, though, the high profile divorce of Armstrong and his first wife Kristin came a solid decade before this information became public. All Armstrong’s ex was concerned with was the fact he had apparently started dating country musician Sheryl Crow in the middle of their marriage, which naturally left her feeling quite betrayed. With every tabloid in America already doing her lawyer’s work for them, Kristin reportedly walked away with a figure near $14 million, plus full custody of her and Lance’s children. Was it worse than disappointing Oprah? That’s for Lance to decide.
12 John Cena — Confidential
In most cases, when a celebrity’s ex makes out huge on their divorce, it’s because their bitter and jilted by something that happened in the marriage, hence things falling apart to begin with. Not that Elizabeth Huberdeau didn’t have plenty of reasons to question her relationship to WWE top star John Cena, but she was actually entirely unaware of them until it was the wrestler who filed for divorce out of nowhere. Feeling blindsided, Huberdeau realized something must have been up, soon learning of many rumors Cena had cheated on her during the marriage, and possibly with some of his WWE diva coworkers. Switching gears, she went from surprised to determined, prepared for a bitter battle in court before Cena quickly settled things in a few short months. The exact amount Cena gave Huberdeau to make her walk away peacefully is unknown, but it was at least enough that he became extremely wary of ever getting married again. This is why he made fiancé Nikki Bella sign a massive legal document just to live with him, and we bet the pre-nup is even longer.
11 Shaquille O’Neal — $20,000/Month
Thanks to a charming personality and an ability to slam dunk like few others, Shaquille O’Neal has remained an extremely popular celebrity since well after his day on the basketball court ended. Whether a fan of the Orlando Magic, LA Lakers, Miami Heat, or any of his other teams, anyone who watched basketball from the '90s up to Shaq’s retirement in 2011 definitely saw him tear it up on countless occasions. As already implied, he was also a huge star outside of the sport, appearing in a number of movies and releasing multiple rap albums. Although not that successful, these endeavors all furthered Shaq’s fame and fortune, which became an issue when he divorced from his wife Shaunie in 2007. In various freestyles, Shaq has blamed his teammates and the NBA for causing his marriage to fall apart, but it was ultimately the basketball star himself who was forced to pay her millions in a settlement.
10 Mike Tyson — $10 Million
Known around the world as the “Baddest Man on the Planet,” not to mention a regular visitor at various court rooms, one might think legendary boxer “Iron” Mike Tyson was too terrifying in his prime to attract any female callers. Of course, there are some women attracted to exactly that sort of madness, apparently including former Head of the Class actress Robin Givens. Tyson and Givens were married for slightly over one year in the late 1980s, also the absolute peak of the boxer’s fame. Throughout their marriage, both admitting things were never good, with Givens openly and repeatedly accusing Tyson of abuse. She called life with him “pure hell,” suggesting the boxer could be manic depressive, and wasted no time in seeking divorce after making her complaints public. Tyson had no standing to doubt any of her claims, reportedly settling for $10 million. Tyson went through another divorce in 2003, but at that point, so much of his fortune had already been lost it wasn’t nearly as costly.
9 Michael Strahan — $15 Million + $18,000/Month
Now known primarily for his winning gap-toothed smile as he says good morning to America, former defensive end Michael Strahan was once amongst the greatest players on the New York Giants. Strahan spent his entire 15-year football career with the team, winning seven Pro Bowl and one Super Bowl in his final season. As a key figure in an incredibly successful football franchise, Strahan was obviously making millions at this time, which paid out in a major way for his ex-wife Jean Muggli when they divorced after seven years of marriage. A judge awarded Muggli $15 million plus an addition $18,000 a month in child support for their then two-year-old twin daughters. According to Muggli, the children needed the money because they liked wearing fashionable purses and being “accessorized” despite their very young age. Whatever the case, Strahan had to pay for his kids to stay pretty, and his ex-wife to live well while they did.
8 Jeff Gordon — $25 Million
Able to drive and turn left faster than any of the other men and women who professional drive and turn left really fast, Jeff Gordon was one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history. Driving number 24 for Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon raced in 23 NASCAR seasons and won 93 races when doing so, making him the most successful driver of the sport’s modern era. Throw in Gordon’s boyish charm and good looks, which made him a regular face on marketing campaigns during the peak of his fame. Those qualities may have also been a factor when he married former model Brooke Sealey in 1994, though they only lasted so long, hence the divorce in 2003. At that time, Gordon was said to be worth approximately $50 million, about one-third of which went to Sealey by the time proceedings were final. She also gained ownership of their $9 million mansion.
7 Ric Flair — Too Many Divorce Settlements To Count
Normally, when introducing a few words about iconic pro wrestler “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, it’s appropriate to kick things off with a hearty “WOOOO!” However, this is one list where that just wouldn’t be appropriate, as in consideration to his income, Flair cumulatively lost more of his fortune in divorce settlements than almost anyone else in this list. Of course, that sort of thing can happen when a guy gets married and divorce four times, averaging a wife per decade since the 1970s. He’s already engaged to wife number five, which could only put him further in the hole if things go wrong. With so many exes, there isn’t time to get into the full details on how much divorce has cost the Nature Boy, but each woman is getting paid so well, the man himself has had to file for bankruptcy because he was unable to pay them all.
6 Greg Norman — $103 Million
Golf fans in the 1980s will never forget “The Great White Shark” Greg Norman, who spent 331 consecutive weeks ranked as the best golfer in the world. To achieve this status, Norman won 20 PGA Tour tournaments and two majors, in addition to 30 appearances in top tens at the same competitions. To this day, he’s a huge celebrity in his native Australia, where he also holds recognition as one of the absolute richest residents with a net worth in the range of $500 million. After leaving golf behind, he opened up various businesses that clearly supplemented his income quite well. That said, Norman could have significantly more money had things not gone so terribly with his first wife, Laura Andrassy. The two were married for nearly 25 years before getting divorced, at which point Australian judges awarded her $103 million. Somehow, she also netted her children possession of their father’s golf trophies. A secret marriage to tennis star Chris Evert didn’t go great either, but he seems happy with his third wife, a former mistress, so maybe he was able to get over the huge financial blow.
5 Dwyane Wade — $5.125 Million
Bringing the heat wherever he goes, Dwyane Wade hasn’t let a recent career of bouncing around NBA teams slow down his momentum in the sport. Granted, he’s not doing quite as well today as he was when a member of the Miami Heat, a team he helped bring to three NBA championships, but Wade is still making millions for other teams like the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Endorsement deals with Gatorade, Staples, and T-Mobile further increased his bank account, all facts of interest to his ex-wife Siohvaughn Funches. They were married from 2002 to 2007 after having been high-school sweethearts, meaning Funches had really been with Wade from the very beginning of his career. Courts took that to mean she earned $5.125 million of his fortune. However, in an unusual turn for this list, Wade earned full custody of their children, an issue Funches might have found more valuable than any money, meaning she lost this battle.
4 Nick Faldo — $7.5 Million
Before Nick Faldo even earned any notable acclaim as a golfer, he had already been married and divorced, leaving his first wife for his manager’s secretary. That secretary would later become his second wife, standing by his side as he gradually climbed up the PGA ladder by winning three Open Championships and Masters tournaments each. Unfortunately, it was Faldo’s dedication to the sport that caused their marriage to slowly unravel, as he would leave second wife Gill at home in England year round while he toured in America. When it became public Faldo was also cheating on her with a 20-year-old, Gill filed for divorce and quickly earned a settlement including $4 million cash. Faldo also had to give her a $3 million mansion they once shared, plus a $500,000 pension for her former position as his business director. Faldo was married and divorced a third time not long after that, and though the details aren’t quite so public, chances are he didn’t make out well in that one, either, as his ex initially sought $15 million.
3 Alex Rodriguez — Confidential
As a longtime star player to baseball’s most successful franchise, Alex Rodriguez may well have made more money from the sport than any other athlete. In 2007, he signed a 10-year deal that earned him $275 million, and that was just a portion of the even larger sum he made throughout his entire career. Though A-Rod was only playing for the Yankees during one of their World Series victories, he was nonetheless a 14-time All-Star and outrageously celebrated athlete and celebrity. Unfortunately, the way Rodriguez chose to capitalize on this status didn’t sit well with his wife Cynthia. Rumors regularly linked A-Rod with glamorous women including strippers and pop singer Madonna, ignoring his family or in his ex’s words outright emotionally abandoning them. Cynthia and Rodriguez soon divorced, with the baseball player’s wife apparently making out huge in an undisclosed settlement.
2 Tiger Woods — $100 Million
Without any competition, Tiger Woods is the biggest celebrity athlete in the golf world today. Tiger’s unique charm and friendly personality made him a hit with audiences since his pro career began at the age of 20, only growing in fame as he won his first Masters tournament less than a year into his career. Tiger has gone on to win 79 PGA Tours and 14 Majors, leading all active golfers in number of tournament victories. Obviously, this made him boat loads of money, which was greatly supplemented through endorsement deals with Nike, General Motors, Titleist, and dozens of other huge businesses. It all made Tiger quite a huge hit with the ladies, including Swedish model Elin Nordegren, who he married in 2003. Unfortunately for her, though, Tiger was hardly a one-woman man, later admitting to a laundry list of infidelities. This would be extremely costly for him, as it gave Nordegren the fuel to nab $100 million in their divorce proceedings.
1 Hulk Hogan — $7 Million
A huge part of how Vince McMahon took WWE to the mainstream was by presenting top star Hulk Hogan and his powerful aura of Hulkamania as being all-American in every way. That said, it’s only appropriate he would eventually go through a painful and costly divorce, as is the American style. The Hulkster and Linda Claridge were married shortly before Hogan left the AWA for WWE and became a massive superstar, right around the time he was a cult figure thanks to Rocky III. She stuck with him 26 years until 2009, at which point Linda began claiming Hogan was unfaithful throughout the marriage and she wanted out. Hogan denied any claims of infidelity, but Linda was adamant he cheated with one of their daughter’s friends during the filming of Hogan Knows Best. Courts seemed to agree, awarding Linda 70 per cent of the couples shared assets, amounting to over $7 million. They were also forced to sell their homes, with most of the profits going straight to Linda, as well.