Well, we know Oprah’s net worth benefitted from Lance’s long-awaited confession. Her new cable network OWN was not only able to sell out all of the ad time for the two-part interview, it was able to command premium prices for many of the spots. (Anyone wondering how Armstrong admitting to something everyone already knew could possibly be stretched over three hours, across two nights, need wonder no more.)
Less clear is what the confession will mean to Armstrong’s considerable fortune. As recently as October, his net worth was estimated to be US$125 million, although the vast majority of that came from sponsors such as Nike, Oakley, Trek, RadioShack and Annheuser-Busch, a group that reportedly contributed some US$30 million to his bank account annually.
They’re all gone now, of course, having dumped Armstrong as soon as the U.S. Anti Doping Agency ruled him a cheat back in October.
But money once paid is hard to get back, and short of each of the sponsors launching a long, litigious war against him, those Nike and Budweiser dollars are Armstrong’s to keep. However, that’s likely not the case for much of the US$3.9 million in prize money he collected for winning the Tour de France seven times. Nor may he be able to keep the cash won in some of the breathtakingly galling legal actions he launched.
The most appalling of which is surely the 2004 suit he successfully filed against SCA Promotions. The Dallas-based insurance company withheld the US$5 million it was supposed to pay Armstrong for winning his sixth Tour. SCA reneged citing widespread allegations of doping. In act of chutzpah akin to murdering your parents and seeking mercy as an orphan, Armstrong’s lawyers socked the company for $7.5 million.
(Although it surely won’t involve a ‘last laugh’, the humour long since drained out of it for them, SCA plans to see Armstrong back in court. It is now suing him for US$12 million, an amount that includes monies paid for prior Tour wins.)
SCA’s lawyers won’t be the only ones sharpening their files, a fact that undoubtedly weighed on Armstrong before finalizing what he planned to tell Oprah. Indeed, one of the great risks of coming clean this week was the ammunition it would hand to all those seeking redress against him.
In November, Armstrong secured a US$1.85-million line of credit against his 8,000-square foot Spanish style villa in the hills of Austin, recently valued at US$3 million. That will be a war chest that he will likely need in the weeks ahead.
The challenge for him will be in tapping new sources of income. It won’t come from sponsors nor from any Tour wins. The speaking circuit doesn’t look like much of an option, at least not in the near term. Securing a hefty advance from a tell-all book could have been a possibility, had he not just told all, more or less to Oprah.
The only thing left is prize money from winning triathlon races, which he could likely do, were he not banned from IOC-sanctioned sports. Salvation now, financial and otherwise, is to get unbanned. And that’s likely the only reason he was on Oprah’s couch.