Not too many people would say being financially scammed was a positive experience. But former NFL player Fred Taylor said he is happy he got scammed early in his rookie NFL career, calling it a “blessing in disguise.”
In 1998, his rookie contract was worth approximately $10.7 million over six years. This contract would also include a $5 million signing bonus. But Taylor didn’t get to enjoy his windfall. He had not one, but two, sports agents mishandle his million-dollar fortune back to back, according to Taylor in an April 2022 episode of “Bussin’ With the Boys.”
Taylor, whose net worth today is estimated to be around $30 million, said that his 1998 contract was lucrative, but as the saying goes, more money, more problems.
Losing Millions to a Ponzi Scheme
Under the ill-advised guidance of Tank Black, a former sports agent and assistant coach for the University of South Carolina, Taylor lost a substantial amount to a Ponzi scheme.
Black presented Taylor with a way to make more money from offshore accounts. What Taylor didn’t realize was that the offshore accounts were a part of an illegal Ponzi scheme he invested around $3 million in.
According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, “A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors…With little or no legitimate earnings, Ponzi schemes require a constant flow of new money to survive. When it becomes hard to recruit new investors, or when large numbers of existing investors cash out, these schemes tend to collapse.”
Black invested Taylor’s money in the scheme, Taylor said.
“They would give me these [Windows] documents of what I was getting for return on investment, which was like 30 grand a month. Fast-forward, it ends up being a Ponzi scheme, total bullsh-t. My money was frozen. I ended up getting back about $2 million of it. So I lost $300,000 plus whatever interest I could’ve made,” he explained on “Bussin’ With the Boys.”
Black allegedly invested 35 NFL players‘ money into the scam, including Taylor’s.
“I chose my first agent [Black] first and foremost because he’s a Black guy. I had an opportunity to go with Leigh Steinberg. They courted me and tried to recruit me, but I turned them down. I don’t even regret that,” Taylor explained, at the time, was one of the top sports agents.
Although Taylor managed to retrieve most of his money back, he said the investment cost him $300,000.
After ending his relationship with Black, a person the NFL star had a close friendship with, according to Sports Illustrated, Taylor hired Jeff Rubin as his new financial adviser.
New Adviser, Old scams
Even though Taylor had a new adviser, the former Jacksonville Jaguars running back got scammed again.
“He started taking shots at private equity deals. He put us in a casino deal down in Alabama. I thought it was a good deal. It was a charitable bingo operation. At the time, they were great in Alabama. They built up the casino, and on our opening night, they raided it. They said, ‘this is an illegal operation.’ The bingo is a front. I had $1.6 million in that deal,” Taylor told SI in 2000.
In a 2012 interview with Yahoo Sports, Taylor said he reached out to Black not only to tell him he forgave him but also to thank him.
“I had to forgive him,” Taylor told Yahoo Sports. “I was pissed for a while. I was pissed for a long time.”
He added that he also told Black, “Thank you for helping make me the man I am.”
Today, the former NLF star takes his past losses with stride, using them in speaking with his children, current players in the league, and whenever he frequents Fortune 500 companies at speaking engagements.
“I learned a valuable lesson,” Taylor told the podcast hosts this spring. “Stuff that I can talk to my kids about, I can talk to young players about. I can go into these speaking engagements and Fortune 500s and talk to their employees about it. So in hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise. I learned a lot, and I’m much better for it now.”