Jerry Wolman Bankrupt

Jerry Wolman with RFK at Franklin Field.

Jerry Wolman with RFK at Franklin Field.

In September of 1967, Jerry Wolman found himself in dire financial straits. Yes, he still owned 52% of the Eagles and 22.5% of the Flyers, but his colossal John Hancock Center in Chicago had sunk into the ground less than halfway thru construction – sucking $22-million of Wolman’s money down with it – money he couldn’t cover.

More than 300 creditors were clamoring for money. His P & L sheet showed assets of $92 million and liabilities of $85 million – but none of it was liquid. He needed an infusion of capital.

In October, a business associate found a lender in Kuwait who was willing to loan him $43-million – more than enough to resolve his financial dilemma. The deal-breaker, however, was that he must include the sale of the Flyers in the transaction.

Wolman went to his partners with the Flyers – Ed Snider and Earl Foreman. Earl Foreman was married to Ed Snider’s sister, and he was Wolman’s long-time legal confidant. Wolman told them he’d use proceeds from the loan to pay them $1-million each if they signed-over their shares of the Flyers. That way, he could collect the $43-million and stay solvent.

Foreman and Snider were also Wolman’s partners with the Eagles – Foreman owned 20% and Snider 7%. If the Kuwaiti deal were consummated, the three of them would lose the Flyers but retain ownership of the Eagles.

Even though Wolman had originally given them their shares in the Flyers, both Foreman and Snider refused Wolman’s request.

That betrayal put more stress on Jerry Wolman.

In November, he flew to Switzerland to try to find sufficient financing to solve his problems. But he failed to find any takers.

On December 13, 1967, out of options, Wolman filed for Chapter XI bankruptcy. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court granted him time to see if he could resolve the issues. Selling the Eagles would be a giant step toward resolution, so Jerry Wolman put the Eagles up for sale. He believed the team had appreciated in value and he was looking for around $16-million.

That’s when Foreman, Snider, and local investor Lou Stein offered to buy the Eagles. But claiming that Wolman’s mismanagement had caused depreciation in the team’s value, they low-balled him with an offer of just $4-million.

Jerry Wolman laughed at the offer.

However, the Bankruptcy Court failed to see the humor. The court gave Wolman a 90-day deadline to sell the Eagles – or forfeit ownership. Vowing that he’d never sell the Eagles to the two Benedict Arnolds who betrayed him, Wolman looked elsewhere for a buyer.

Enter Leonard Tose. A local trucking magnate, Tose was one of the “Happy Hundred” who owned the Eagles when Wolman purchased the team in 1963. Tose was also part of a group that bid on the Eagles in 1963 – but lost out to Wolman.

leonard tose image

Leonard Tose showed up for his meeting with Jerry Wolman with two bottles of Johnnie Walker Red in-hand and a tentative agreement-in-principle was reached during that first session. The deal was sealed on May 1, 1969.

Jerry Wolman was out, Leonard Tose was in, and most of Wolman’s creditors were paid in full.

Ed Snider kept control of the Flyers and has owned the team ever since. He became chairman of Comcast-Spectacor and owned the Sixers from 1996 until he sold the team to Josh Harris in 2012.

In 1974, Jerry Wolman returned to the Baltimore-Washington area and went back into real estate development. He neither became a rich man nor a poor man, but he did all right.

In 1985, he married a legal secretary he met in Chicago.jerry wolman book cover

In 2010, Jerry Wolman: The World’s Richest Man was published. Wolman marketed the book on TV shows like It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle and tried to turn the book into a movie, but he found no takers.

Jerry Wolman died on August 6, 2013. He was 86.

Before he died, Jerry Wolman mended his fences with Earl Foreman – but never with Ed Snider. Back in 2009, venerable Philadelphia columnist Stan Hochman asked Wolman about his feelings toward Ed Snider.

“I took him out of the gutter,” Wolman said, “and he fucked me.”

Barry Bowe is the author of 12 Best Eagles QBs and 1964 – The Year the Phillies Blew the Pennant.

Written by Barry Bowe

Former sportswriter – first to put Timmy Duncan’s name on the sports page.