Basketball legend Oscar Robertson’s financial woes have extended to his hometown of Indianapolis, where he is attempting to convince a Marion Superior Court judge that he isn’t responsible for a $203,000 bank loan.
Robertson’s money troubles in Ohio, where he played collegiately at the University of Cincinnati from 1957 to 1960 and professionally for the Cincinnati Royals in the 1960s, have received media attention in recent weeks.
He faces foreclosure on his chemical company Orchem Corp.’s headquarters in Fairfield, Ohio, for nearly $200,000 in back property taxes and interest. Robertson and his wife also personally owe more than $2.4 million to two banks for loans on the Fairfield building.
In the meantime, M&I Bank for more than three years has been attempting to collect on the $203,000 it loaned Robertson and another of his companies, Tyffany Real Estate and Management Inc. of Jasper in southern Indiana.
A hearing is set for Oct. 1 on M&I’s request to have Judge Heather Welch award it a judgment without a trial.
M&I’s four-page complaint filed in January 2009 says Robertson defaulted on the loan he received about a year earlier. The loan was to finance preliminary work on a senior housing facility planned at the old high school in Jasper.
But Robertson contends he isn’t responsible for the loan because the bank fraudulently induced him into signing a guaranty in spite of his assertions that he didn’t have the finances to back the note.
Robertson, 73, claims a bank employee told him he shouldn’t worry because the money loaned under the note would be “rolled into” the permanent financing of the project, which would be secured by the building itself.
“Mr. Robertson has designated evidence that the bank, by deed and conduct, induced him to sign the guaranty it now seeks to enforce, the same guaranty bank officials told Mr. Robertson to not worry about,” lawyers for Robertson argued in an August court document.
A longtime friend and business partner of Robertson’s, Indianapolis entrepreneur Joseph Wolfla, is not named in the suit, but gave a deposition supporting Robertson. Wolfla last year helped reintroduce the Choc-Ola chocolate beverage to store shelves after a 10-year hiatus.
Robertson starred at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, leading the team to a 31-1 record in 1955 and the first state championship for any all-black school in the nation. The following year the team finished a perfect 31–0 and won a second straight state title.
He led a group of college players to an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and went on to a Hall of Fame career in the National Basketball Association with the Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks. Many basketball experts consider him to be the greatest all-around player in history.