Sidney Shlenker
Born(1936-08-14)August 14, 1936
DiedApril 23, 2003(2003-04-23) (aged 66)

Sidney L. Shlenker (August 14, 1936 – April 23, 2003) was an American businessman. His management/ownership of a series of professional sports teams was marked by both success and controversy.

Early life and career

Shlenker was born in Monroe, Louisiana. His family moved to Houston two years later.[1] He graduated from St. John's School in Houston,[2] and attended Tulane University, but dropped out without graduating.[1]

Shlenker met Roy Hofheinz, the owner of the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball and the Astrodome. Shlenker began promoting non-sporting events held at the Astrodome.[2] In 1966, Shlenker and Allen Becker founded Pace Management Company, which focused on event promotion.[1][3] In 1975, the Astros hired Shlenker as their president. He fired Spec Richardson, the team's general manager, and hired Tal Smith.[4] Shlenker became a part-owner of the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1982.[5]

In May 1985, he bought the NBA's Denver Nuggets for $20 million. He reached an agreement with the city of Denver to renovate the McNichols Arena.[6] Shlenker also owned the Denver Dynamite of the Arena Football League (AFL). He refused to operate by the financial rules of the AFL, and suspended the team's operations after one season.[7] In June 1987, the Major Indoor Soccer League granted a conditional franchise to Shlenker, to begin play in the 1988–89 season.[8] The team, tentatively named the "Denver Desperados", attracted deposits for 400 season tickets within four months, short of the required 5,000; the franchise was revoked in November 1987.[9] In September 1988, Shlenker purchased the Colorado / Denver Rangers of the International Hockey League. He declared the team bankrupt in June 1989.[10] Shlenker sold Nuggets in November 1989 for $65 million.[6]

Shlenker then moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he managed the construction of the Memphis Pyramid. In 1991, he was removed from the project after failing to obtain financing and his company filed for bankruptcy.[1][11] The year before, Shlenker's plans to remove the Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island to make space for bars and restaurants fell through thanks to intervention of the West Tennessee Historical Society, the Mud Island Foundation, and then-Mayor of Memphis, Richard Hackett.[12][13]

Personal life

Shlenker testified in the trial of Heidi Fleiss, the "Hollywood Madam", in 1995. As a former customer, he received immunity for his testimony.[14]

Shlenker suffered a spinal cord injury in a 1998 motor vehicle accident on U.S. Route 395 in Big Pine, California. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.[3][6]

Shlenker had three children.[1] He and his first wife, Marti, divorced in 1990.[15] He later married his second wife, Denise. Shlenker died of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on April 23, 2003.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mclellan, Dennis (April 28, 2003). "Sidney Shlenker, 66; Entrepreneur Staged Astrodome Events". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 4, 2016 – via LA Times.
  2. ^ a b "Deaths: Sidney Shlenker, ex-Astros executive". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Former Denver Nuggets owner Sidney Shlenker dies at 66". Plainview Daily Herald. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  4. ^ "The Nevada Daily Mail - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  5. ^ "Lawrence Journal-World - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Paige, Woody. "Fallen Shlenker will be missed". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  7. ^ "Denver Dynamite football was a flash in the pan for venerable league". The Denver Post. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  8. ^ "MISL awards Denver expansion franchise". Eugene Register-Guard. June 26, 1987. p. 4C. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  9. ^ "MISL team folds". Wilmington Morning Star. November 6, 1987. p. 2B. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  10. ^ Joey Bunch (October 22, 2012). "Denver Dynamite exploded in Arena League's first season, then fizzled out". The Denver Post. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  11. ^ Dries, Bill (December 24, 2007). "History Lesson Serves As Cautionary Tale For The Pyramid". Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  12. ^ "History of WTHS". West Tennessee Historical Society. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  13. ^ "Mid-South Memories: Sept. 27". The Commercial Appeal. Memphis, TN. September 26, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  14. ^ "Heidi Fleiss convicted of money laundering". Northwest Indiana Times. Associated Press. August 11, 1995. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  15. ^ Abram, Lynwood (May 13, 2005). "Deaths: M. Shlenker, restaurateur, real estate agent, sports exec". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 4, 2016.