We so often hear about the winners in sports gambling and other avenues of gambling, but we rarely hear about the person who lost it all due to their misfortune. One man who is a testament to just how harsh sports gambling can be is former Philadelphia Eagles owner, Leonard Tose.
Born to a Russian immigrant family outside of Philadelphia, Leonard came from modest means and had to work to earn his own way in life. A skilled businessman, Tose quickly built his name in the trucking industry where he started off by owning 10 trucks. He eventually worked hard and grew his company, Tose Inc. to have over 700 trucks, bringing in around $20 million a year at its peak.
He grew up an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan, and after multiple attempts to stake claim to the team, he later recognized his dream when he was able to purchase the team in 1969 for $16,155,000, a record price at the time for buying a sports franchise.
While Tose was a very skilled businessman, he was equally as bad at gambling where he had developed a nasty addiction to which he would pour his fortune into. Due to some major gambling debts that he acquired, he was eventually forced to sell the Philadelphia Eagles to Ed Leibowitz and Norman Braman in 1985. The two were very successful car dealers from Florida, and they purchased the Eagles for only $65 million. $25 million of that amount went straight to cover Tose’ various gambling debts he had collected over the years.
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It was around the time that he was forced to sell that Eagles that Tose’ fortune seemed to take a turn for the worst. In 1991, he was sued by Sands for $1.23 million in gambling debts that he never paid. He attempted to countersue the casino on the grounds that the casino got him too drunk to play which resulted in his major losses. Giving some credibility to Tose’ case was a cocktail waitress who testified that her only job was to “Keep Mr. Tose’ glass filled.” Eventually, Tose would lose the lawsuit and was forced to pay the $1.23 million balance.
By 1996, Tose had basically lost it all. He went from being a very wealthy and successful entrepreneur to being evicted from his own seven-bedroom mansion. He was said to have lost around $20 million gambling at Resorts International, and another $14 million gambling at the Sands casino.
At a congressional hearing in 1999, Tose told congress that his gambling losses amounted to around $40 million to $50 million dollars. After losing seemingly everything, he spend the last of his years in a hotel room in downtown Philadelphia after his upscale downtown home in the Main Line district was taken by the Feds for unpaid taxes.
The history books always tend to favor the winners, whether it be the rulers and conquerors, or the sports legends, but very rarely do we hear about the other side of the coin. The people life Leonard Tose who worked hard to build a fortune from nothing, and then lost it all twice as fast as he made it. It’s a tragic story and one that serves as a cautionary tale to anyone looking to make a quick buck by gambling. For every Billy Walters or Jon Price in the world, the Godfathers of successful winning sports betting, there’s hundreds of Leonard Toses who lost it all and along with it, their place in the history books.
After starting out in a lower end neighborhood right outside of Philadelphia, and growing his fortune large enough that he was able to purchase his own favorite American football team as an adult, Tose lived an incredibly storied life and saw the two extremes of success and failure in his life. He would later die a broken man on April 15, 2003 in his sleep at the age of 88. An obituary written by friend Dan Dunkin accurately captured Tose’ life and his gung-ho, risk-it-all type of behavior as it read, “To put Leonard Tose’s life in football terms, he threw on every down.”
Many who knew of the former Eagles owner said that even in his later years he was still living the larger than life persona that he preferred and is inducted in the Jewish Sports hall of fame.