To defend himself from several recent lawsuits, Lance Armstrong has employed a small army of attorneys in three U.S. time zones, plus one of the top law firms in Britain.
It’s not cheap. At least one lawyer charges more than $800 an hour, helping drive up Armstrong’s expenses at the same time his income has slowed to a trickle.
What can he do to reduce the financial hit?
For starters, he can sell his home in Austin, as he did last week. Though the sale price was not made public, the 1.7-acre property was appraised last year at $3.9 million, according to Travis County (Texas) records. The buyer, a founder of a Texas oil and gas acquisition company, took out a $3.1 million loan related to the purchase, records show.
The 7,806-square-foot house once was featured in Architectural Digest, which noted Armstrong’s children designed their own bedrooms. “You will graduate from high school in this house,” Armstrong told his children in an article published in July 2008. “I promise. Dad’s not moving again.”
The oldest of his five children is now 13, but things have changed. The home is a casualty of the former cyclist’s downsizing as he faces more than $110 million in potential liabilities from at least six lawsuits. All generally accuse him of defrauding them, saying he financially benefited from cheating on the bike and lying about it for several years.
Last October, all of his major sponsors fired him after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a damning file that detailed how he used banned drugs and blood transfusions to boost his performance.
Armstrong, 41, called the loss of income a “$75 million day. Gone. Gone, and probably never coming back.”
He’s also banned for life from sanctioned sporting events, including marathons and triathlons. Last year, the World Triathlon Corporation had a $1 million deal with him and his cancer foundation. This year, he can barely jump in the local pool without protests. Armstrong was forced to withdraw from a masters swimming event in Austin last week after the International Swimming Federation enforced the ban.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Armstrong is downscaling as his legal costs rise and his income has declined. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Armstrong hoped his confession to doping in January – delivered to Oprah Winfrey on television – would help pave the way for public redemption. But many sponsors might never come back, and he has dug in his heels against those trying to recover money from him. The federal government, two insurance companies, a British newspaper and two potential class-action plaintiffs all want their money back.
Last week, Armstrong’s attorney asked a state court to dismiss one of those cases – a suit filed by a Dallas sports insurance company that paid his bonuses for winning the Tour de France. He argued the court lacked the jurisdiction to get involved in the case because the two sides previously reached a binding settlement.
It’s the kind of legal battle that costs money.
“It’s fair to say that loss of endorsement income combined with expensive litigation would cause someone to watch the bottom line pretty closely,” said Marc Mukasey, a New York attorney not involved in the Armstrong cases.
Austin still will be Armstrong’s primary residence, his representative Mark Higgins told USA TODAY Sports.