Video chronicles unknown story behind Utah Stars

History • Owner repaid staff, players, vendors and season-ticket holders after franchise folded.
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When a sports franchise collapses or relocates to another city, there's no guarantee that a new team will take its place, and there's a good chance that the owner will never be able to set foot in town again without drawing the ire of bitter fans. Utah may be the exception.

Within five years of the collapse of the Utah Stars basketball team, the state's first professional sports franchise, owner Bill Daniels made efforts to locate and repay vendors and season-ticket holders.

That part of Daniels' legacy, was celebrated recently by former associates including Stars player Ron Boone, general manager Arnie Ferrin and staff member Grant Harrison. The event, put on by the nonprofit Daniels Fund, also featured a new video, "Principled Leadership: Bill Daniels and the Utah Stars."

The video captures a 1980 story in The Salt Lake Tribune, detailing how Daniels managed the fallout from the Stars' collapse in 1971.

Even though the bankruptcy cleared Daniels of all financial responsibility to the franchise, he returned to Salt Lake in 1980 to repay every staff member, vendor, player and season-ticket holder who had been shortchanged by the bankruptcy — even going as far as to add an extra 8 percent interest. It cost him $750,000.

The video, which can be viewed free on the Daniels Fund website,, begins with Daniels' background and the path that eventually led him to purchase the Stars, a franchise of the American Basketball Association (ABA), and move them from Los Angeles to Utah, where they won the league championship in their first year.

The Stars' bankruptcy came at a particularly bad time for Daniels, who was already in financial turmoil. It would take the Colorado businessman five years to marshal the resources necessary to repay everyone who had been employed by the Stars.

"[Daniels] had a ledger with him and he started going over names — season-ticket holders, guys that were owed money," former Stars coach Tom Nissalke says in the film. "And then he gave me a check, which would be nice to have today, but then it was astronomical."

According to the film, Daniels spent months tracking down creditors through certified letters and newspaper ads.

"I repaid back all the creditors, plus the season-ticket holders, including 8 percent interest from the day I had to fold it up, because I had to look myself in the mirror every morning," Daniels says in the film.

Utahns acknowledged Daniels' gesture, and his role in bringing professional sports to Utah, by inducting him into the Utah Professional Sports Hall of Fame.

Daniels, who died in 2000, went on to build an empire in the cable television industry and launch charitable efforts, including the Denver-based Daniels Fund, which awards millions in grants and scholarships. There also is a book, The Life & Legacy of Bill Daniels, that explains his business and philanthropic efforts. That legacy includes an ethics initiative at the University of Utah. —

View video online

To view the a new video, "Principled Leadership: Bill Daniels and the Utah Stars" visit: