A federal grand jury in New Orleans has subpoenaed all the financial records connected with last week's Ali-Spinks heavyweight title fight, amid allegations that several people may have been swindled out of their share of the more than $10 million pie.
The legal action is the latest skirmish in a continuing battle pitting promoter vs. promoter vs. fighter. U.S. Attorney John Volz said he subpoenaed both the records and eight individuals - including two local promoters - ordering them to appear before a grand jury investigating possible "violations of federal laws such as interstate transportation of stolen property, mail fraud and others."
Here is what can be said, at this time, about who made what money on the fight.
Top Rank Inc., the New York promotion company appears to have profited by more than $1 million.
Top Rank sold national television rights to the American Broadcasting Company for $5.3 million, various overseas television rights for a world record $1.7 million, and local live gate rights to the fight in New Orleans for $3 million. That makes the total income on Top Rank about $10 million.
According to a Top Rank official, costs to that firm are estimated at "something just above $8.5 million including payments of $3.75 million to Leon Spinks and $3.25 million to Muhammed Ali - from which their expenses were paid.
For its part, ABC has privately told television industry sources that it lost more than $1 million on the fight.
But, according to sources at the network, ABC is not unhappy with losing money on the venture.
"It was the second largest audience in television history (to the last night of the first showing of Roots)," said one television industry executive. "And ABC couldn't have found a better tool to publicize its new season. They were trying to sell time for $350,000 a minute, I don't know what advertisers finally did pay."
As for overseas television sales, an industry source said the closed circuit television theaters in England, Scandanavia and other areas were "packed to the gills, the sales weere fantastic."
The major controversy surrounds the local rights in New Orleans. Top Rank sold local, live gate rights to New Orleans businessman Jake Di-Maggio, City Councilman Philip Ciaccio and Louisiana Sports Inc., which is run by two other local businessmen Sherman Copelin and Don Hubbard.
Last week, DiMaggio and Ciaccio sued Copelin, Hubbard and a former Top Rank employee, charging that the three had embezzled several hundred thousand dollars from the local pot.
That suit was dropped when Copelin Hubbard and Butch Lewis paid back some $225.000 in funds to DiMaggio and Ciaccio.
The live gate was reported to be $4.8 million, somewhat under the more than $6 million projected for the Super dome paid crowd of 63,532.
The local promoters have said that their costs would be about $4.2 million, and that they had hoped the gate would be about $5.6 million. They say they are disappointed with the $600,000 they will have to split up.
But federal investigations say there may be complications.
Canon cameras, for example, bought exclusive rights to sell advertising showing Canon cameras in use at the fight. But, the investigators say, it is unclear who sold Canon the rights, and it is suspected that a few of the promoters may have set up a subsidiary company to sell rights for their personal gain, cutting out the other partners.
Both Ali and Spinks cleared $1 million each, personally, according to informed sources.
The remainder of the $7 million they split went to training expenses, fees to managers (usually one-third of the profit after expenses goes to a fighters's manager, and for federal and local taxes.
The Internal Revenue Service was involved from the beginning, taking Uncle Sam's cut before anyone in either fighter's camp had a chance to count it.
The city of New Orleans didn't fare too badly either. City public information director Jay Handelman said New Orleans could benefit by as much as $125 million to $30 million in extra revenue during the week of the fight. The local hotels were at about 97 percent capacity.
"Tourism is our second leading industry to our port," Handelman said, "and one of the most important aspects of tourism is publicity. This event received more publicity than any other in sports history."