Bad publicity damaged my brand, Boris Becker tells court

The six-time Grand Slam champion was declared bankrupt in June 2017.

28 March 2022

Tennis star Boris Becker has told a jury that bad publicity damaged his personal brand, meaning he could not earn enough money to pay off his debts.

The six-time Grand Slam champion, 54, is on trial at Southwark Crown Court accused of failing to hand over assets, including nine trophies and medals, after he was declared bankrupt in June 2017.

Becker, wearing a pale blue suit and white shirt, sat at the witness box on Monday to give evidence as the jury were told he has injuries to his ankle and knees.

His barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, took him through his glittering tennis career, in which he was catapulted to stardom when he became the youngest player to win the Wimbledon men’s singles titles, aged 17, in 1985.

The court heard the former world number one earned a “vast amount” of money, winning about 50 million US dollars (about £38 million) in prize money and sponsorship deals.

He said he helped his parents build a house in his native Germany and paid cash for a family home in Munich, a property in Miami, Florida, and an estate in Mallorca, Spain – worth about 50 million euros at the height of the property market.

Boris Becker court case
Boris Becker is on trial over charges relating to his bankruptcy (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

But Becker, who went on to coach current world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic, work as a BBC commentator and act as a brand ambassador for firms including Puma, said his earnings “reduced dramatically” following his retirement in 1999.

He said he was involved in an “expensive divorce” with ex-wife Barbara Becker in 2001, involving high maintenance payments to their two sons, and had to support his daughter Anna Ermakova and her mother, in a deal which included a £2.5 million Chelsea flat.

“I had a very expensive divorce and (had to pay) support for my daughter and her mother as well, all at the same time,” said Becker.

German national Becker, who was resident in Monte Carlo and Switzerland before moving to the UK in 2012, said he had “expensive lifestyle commitments”, including a £22,000-a-month rented house in Wimbledon.

He also owed the Swiss authorities five million francs (about £4 million) and separately just under one million euro (more than £800,000) in liabilities over a conviction for tax evasion and attempted tax evasion in Germany in 2002.

The court heard Becker’s bankruptcy resulted from a 4.6 million euro (about £3.85 million) loan from private bank Arbuthnot Latham in 2013, and £1.2 million, with a 25% interest rate, borrowed from British businessman John Caudwell the following year.

At the time, his estimated yearly earnings were £2.5 million, but Becker said his “income fell at least 50%” and he struggled to make repayments.

“The first year of the loan, I would pay back roughly one million euro (more than £800,000) but in the second year I had difficulties because various companies didn’t prolong their contracts,” he said.

“My image wasn’t as good any more, brand Becker was not regarded as highly as before and they didn’t want to be associated with a brand that was criticised in the media.”

Becker said he faced publicity “all around the world” but especially in Germany and the UK, which has affected his ability to earn.

“(It is) very difficult when you are bankrupt and in the headlines every week for it. (It is) very difficult to make a lot of money with my name,” he said.

Becker, who was occasionally helped to give evidence by a German translator, denies 24 charges under the Insolvency Act.

They include nine counts of failing to hand over trophies and other awards, seven of concealing property, five of failing to disclose estate, two of removal of property and one of concealing debt.

He is accused of failing to hand over nine trophies, including two of his three Wimbledon men’s singles titles, an Olympic gold medal, his 1991 and 1996 Australian Open trophies and his Davis Cup trophy and gold coin.

Becker allegedly hid 1.13 million euro (about £950,000) from the sale of a Mercedes car dealership he owned in Germany, and transferred hundreds of thousands of pounds to other accounts, including those of his ex-wife Barbara Becker and estranged wife Sharlely “Lilly” Becker, the mother of his fourth child.

He is also accused of failing to declare two German properties, as well as his interest in the flat occupied by his daughter, and hiding an 825,000 euro (almost £700,000) bank loan and shares in a tech firm.

Becker, who arrived hand in hand with his partner Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro, said “almost every aspect” of his life had been controlled by others during his playing career.

He said: “I don’t have the patience to read all of the contracts I receive,” and trusts the judgment of his advisers.

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