King's Tarnished Crown

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But King has involved Henrietta in the finances of his South Florida properties. And for good reason. Homes in her name are protected from creditors. In March 1999, Henrietta purchased a 32,049-square-foot mansion in Manalapan for $7.8 million. Two months later, Henrietta Realty Corp., a company controlled by King's wife, bought the mansion next door for $6.5 million. Over the next two years, Henrietta sold her three houses in Delray Beach for a $566,000 profit and subsequently purchased a $212,000 home in Boynton Beach.

And then there are the cars. In a 1999 lawsuit, King listed 25 registered to Don King Productions in Florida, Nevada, and Ohio. They included a $28,000 1991 Bentley Turbo, two 1991 Lincoln Town Cars worth a combined $136,000, an $11,000 1976 Cadillac El Dorado, a $115,000 1991 Rolls Royce, and a 1995 Mercedes valued at $149,000. The promoter's company paid the annual $51,674 insurance premium.

King entered the local business arena in a public way in 1999 when he bought the vacant Palm Beach Jai-Alai Fronton in Magnolia Park. At the time, King said he hoped to turn the facility into a boxing arena and entertainment venue that would rival the casinos of Las Vegas. "You're going to have everybody who's anybody here," King told Casino Magazine shortly after purchasing the fronton. "I want to really make [Palm Beach] a world capital of sports and entertainment."

Instead, the fronton became a money pit. King bought it for $6.25 million. It has continued to depreciate and is now worth $5.4 million. King recently tried to persuade the Florida Marlins to buy it and relocate to Palm Beach County. "I'm trying to give them a home, because they're homeless, and I have such empathy for homeless people, coming from the downtrodden," King commented to New Times.

The Marlins have yet to entertain King's offer publicly.

"I got 54 acres of land free and clear, some of the most picturesque land in South Florida," King added. "From I-95, you can see it. Everybody can see it. Right there, we can build a 45,000-seat retractable-roof stadium, and everyone I know will jump in to help do this. But we find ourselves knocked out, blocked at the door, with one extension after another. But God bless America. That's the process."

Another American process is litigation. King knows that fact all too well.

Seven years ago, Judd Burstein, an ambitious New York litigator whose clients have included Lennox Lewis and Donald Trump, sued King. He represented three-time World Boxing Conference (WBC) super-welterweight champ Terry Norris, who alleged that the promoter had stolen money from him throughout his career.

Once filed, the Norris lawsuit threatened to deal a body blow to King and sparked an international war of words. At first, it seemed the lawsuit had slim chance. History was against Norris.

Burstein alleged in court that King conspired with Norris' manager, Joe Sayatovich, to shave money from the fighter's purses. Last December, Norris finally had his day in court. At the end of closing arguments, a New York jury asked the judge for a calculator and a magnifying glass. Worried that the court might enter a judgment close to the $61.5 million claim, King offered to settle for $7.5 million.

Burstein accepted the settlement as a victory. "People do not pay $7.5 million if they have not done anything wrong," he said to reporters outside the courtroom. "Don King is a cancer in the sport of boxing. Today's settlement provided boxing with a dose of chemotherapy."

Later, Burstein tells New Times: "It sends a message that if boxers are willing to persevere, they too can get justice. Any time somebody has to pay $7.5 million, it's a little more than a crack in the armor."

The relationship between King and Burstein has become hostile. On July 4, 2003, the New York Daily News quoted King as calling Burstein a "shyster lawyer."

Burstein responded in interviews with two boxing websites. In one of them, the lawyer commented: "The term 'shyster lawyer' when used in connection with a Jewish lawyer is designed to provoke anti-Semitic feeling... He is quite plainly an anti-Semite."

King retaliated by filing a slander lawsuit in England; it has yet to be decided. "It unquestionably shows Don King's extraordinary hypocrisy," Burstein comments. "He keeps shouting 'Only in America' and waving an American flag and then shows no regard for the American Constitution. He decided to sue an American who made a statement to an American website about Don King, an American citizen, in England, because there's no First Amendment protection there."

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Trevor Aaronson
Contact: Trevor Aaronson