Becker’s grand save
FORMER TENNIS STAR BECOMES DIPLOMAT — KEEPING CREDITORS FROM HIS DOOR
Boris Becker has declared himself a diplomat for a small African country in a bid to stop creditors chasing him for tens of millions of dollars in debts.
The three-time Wimbledon tennis champion was declared bankrupt last summer and earlier this year launched an appeal to find his missing trophies to try to pay off more than $90 million.
He is due to be one of the BBC’s commentators when the Wimbledon tennis championships start next month. Now his lawyers have told the High Court that Becker quietly became a “sporting, cultural and humanitarian affairs” attaché for the Central African Republic on April 27.
A defiant Becker said Thursday he was “immensely proud” of his new role — and attacked the “bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats” chasing him for money.
According to the 1961 Vienna Convention, he cannot be subject to legal process in the courts of any country for so long as he remains a recognized diplomatic agent. He cannot be sued for the cash without the consent of the Central African Republic, while legal claims can only be served on him through diplomatic channels. Any legal action would require the agreement of Boris Johnson, the U.K. foreign secretary, as well as the Central African Republic’s foreign minister. Experts said that anyone could become a foreign diplomat if invited to do so by the country.
Becker’s decision to become a diplomat could mean that none of the money he is expected to receive for commentating for the BBC at Wimbledon will go to his creditors.
“A bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats pushed me into a completely unnecessary declaration of bankruptcy, which has inflicted a whole heap of damage on me, both commercially and professionally, and on those close to me,” said Becker in a statement. “I have now asserted diplomatic immunity as I am in fact bound to do, in order to bring this farce to an end, so that I can start to rebuild my life. Once this gravy train for the suits has been stopped in its tracks, my lawyers will turn to the question of compensation.”
Becker has hired Ben Emmerson, a leading human rights lawyer who has acted for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, to handle his diplomatic immunity claim.
His bankruptcy followed $35-million divorce and paternity settlements with his first wife, Barbara Feltus, and Angela Ermakova, a Russian model, as well as a two-year suspended sentence for tax evasion in Germany.
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine claimed Becker may have lost his $170 million fortune in part because of questionable investments in the Nigerian oil industry. Becker did not comment on the claim.
When his career ended in 1999 with six grand slam victories, Becker never needed to work again. He had accumulated more than $40 million in prize money.
As he became a fixture on the London social scene, he never lacked for company. The problem was, when the bill came, the company invariably vanished.
His whirligig social life took its toll on his first marriage. Feltus, whom he married in 1993 and with whom he had two sons, left him in London and headed for Miami; their divorce settlement overshadowed even his most extravagant nights out. She was awarded more than $14 million, plus custody of the children.
Feltus had walked out on him after being contacted by Ermakova, the Russian model who claimed to be pregnant with his child. The pair had enjoyed the briefest of meetings in a fashionable London restaurant; the rumour was that it had occurred in a broom cupboard. He hardly calmed the hubbub when, in an attempt to put the record straight, he insisted it had been on the stairs.
After initially refusing to accept paternity, he agreed to take a DNA test and, when it proved him wrong, became happily reconciled with his daughter Anna.
Indeed in 2007, he took on joint custody and enjoys a close relationship with the teenager, as he does with his sons from his first marriage. Noah, now a musician living in Berlin and 18-year-old model Elias were both guests of honour at his 50th birthday celebrations at the Ivy restaurant in London last November.
More private turmoil became apparent, however, when in 2017 he was declared bankrupt after a London private bank foreclosed on a loan said to be more than $3 million.
The news seemed, momentarily, to diminish his enormous reserves of self-confidence. He put on weight, looked jaded and deflated.
Last month, he and his second wife, a Dutch model, announced they were separating after nine years of marriage.
Their son Amadeus, Becker’s fourth child, was born in 2010.
At the time of their wedding, he declared that she was going to tame him: “When you’ve done the partying, done the models, everything else is a repeat,” he said.
Much-indebted Boris Becker became a “sporting, cultural and humanitarian affairs” attaché for the Central African Republic earlier this year.