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Boris Becker trial: Tennis star blames bad publicity for being unable to earn enough money to pay off debts

Tennis legend Boris Becker has told a jury he was unable to earn enough money to pay off his debts due to bad publicity damaging his personal brand.

The 54-year-old six-time Grand Slam champion is on trial at Southwark Crown Court after being accused of not handing over assets – including nine trophies and medals – after he was declared bankrupt in 2017.

He sat as he gave evidence on Monday to the jury which was told he has injuries to his ankle and knees.

‘It’s very difficult to make a lot of money with my name’

The German national has worked as a BBC commentator, acted as a brand ambassador for firms including Puma, and coached world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic for three years.

But he said his earnings “reduced dramatically” following his retirement from competitive tennis in 1999 after being involved in an “expensive divorce” with ex-wife Barbara Becker in 2001 – which involved high maintenance payments to their two sons.

The court heard Becker’s bankruptcy stemmed from a 4.6 million euro (£3.85m) loan from private bank Arbuthnot Latham in 2013.

He also borrowed £1.2m, with a 25% interest rate, from British businessman John Caudwell the following year, jurors were told.

His estimated yearly earnings at the time were £2.5m, but Becker said his “income fell at least 50%” and he struggled to make repayments.

“The first year of the loan, I would pay back roughly one million euros (more than £800,000) but in the second year I had difficulties because various companies didn’t prolong their contracts,” he told the court.

“My image wasn’t as good anymore, brand Becker was not regarded as highly as before and they didn’t want to be associated with a brand that was criticised in the media.”

Becker said he faced publicity “all around the world” but especially in Germany and the UK, which has inhibited his earning abilities.

He told the court it is “very difficult when you are bankrupt and in the headlines every week for it,” adding: “It is very difficult to make a lot of money with my name.”

‘Expensive lifestyle commitments’

Becker claimed he also had to support his daughter Anna Ermakova and her mother, Russian waitress Angela Ermakova, in a deal that included a £2.5m Chelsea flat.

“I had a very expensive divorce and (had to pay) support for my daughter and her mother as well, all at the same time,” he told the courtroom.

Becker, a former resident of Monte Carlo and Switzerland before moving to the UK in 2012, said he had “expensive lifestyle commitments”, including a £22,000-a-month rented house in Wimbledon.

He also owed the Swiss authorities five million francs (£4m), as well as just under one million euros in liabilities over a conviction for tax evasion and attempted tax evasion in Germany in 2002.

His barrister Jonathan Laidlaw QC relayed details of Becker’s glittering tennis career to jurors, including his rise to stardom when he became the youngest player to win the Wimbledon men’s singles titles, aged 17, in 1985.

The court was also told how the former world number one earned a “vast amount” of money of around $50m (£38m) in prize money and sponsorship deals.

What is Becker accused of?

The tennis star denies 24 charges under the Insolvency Act – including nine counts of failing to hand over trophies and other awards, seven of concealing property, five of failing to disclose estate, two of removal of property and one of concealing debt.

He is accused of failing to hand over nine trophies, including two of his three Wimbledon men’s singles titles, an Olympic gold medal, his 1991 and 1996 Australian Open trophies and his Davis Cup trophy and gold coin.

Becker is alleged to have hidden 1.13 million euros ( £950,000) from the sale of a Mercedes car dealership he owned in Germany.

He is also accused of transferring hundreds of thousands of pounds to other accounts, including those of his ex-wife Barbara and estranged wife Lilly Becker, the mother of his fourth child.

He is said to have failed to declare two German properties, as well as his interest in the flat occupied by his daughter, and hiding an 825,000 euro (almost £700,000) bank loan and shares in a tech firm.

Becker, who arrived hand in hand with his partner Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro, said that “almost every aspect” of his life had been controlled by other people during his playing career.

He told the court: “I don’t have the patience to read all of the contracts I receive,” and trusts the judgement of his advisers.

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