Felix Trinidad, the former boxing great who held on to the welterweight championship for nearly seven years and is considered a godlike figure in his native Puerto Rico, finds himself broke after investing in Puerto Rico government bonds — investments he claims were made without his knowledge by a close friend who Trinidad hired to be his top financial advisor.
When Felix “Tito” Trinidad was active in the ring, where he earned an estimated $90 million in his 15-year, 45-fight career, the Puerto Rico bond market was booming, a reflection of the island’s thriving economy throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
But the free-standing United States territory piled up huge amounts of debt, which by 2013 had swelled to about $70 billion in the commonwealth of fewer than 4 million people. At the same time, as with the rest of the United States, the Puerto Rican economy slowed down dramatically and the territory ran huge budget deficits.
When investors realized what was happening, they sold Puerto Rico’s bonds — fast. The once highly rated Puerto Rico government bonds were soon rated as “junk,” and investors lost millions.
One of those investors was Felix “Tito” Trinidad. But in court papers filed in San Juan the boxing champ says that he was betrayed by his top financial consultant, Jose “Pepe” Ramos.
Trinidad and his father Felix Trinidad Sr., who also acted as his son’s trainer during Tito Trinidad’s storied ring career, say that Ramos didn’t tell them he had continued to pump the Trinidad fortune into Puerto Rico bonds, even as the investments started looking more and more like a high-wire act.
Ramos was a friend of Felix Trinidad whose role in the boxer’s entourage was as a Spanish-English translator. But the fighter trusted Ramos so deeply that he hired him in 1991 as his investment advisor.
Ramos allegedly parlayed his position as manager of the Felix Trinidad fortune into high-paying positions at three leading investment firms.
Though Felix Trinidad claims that he gave Ramos strict instructions to make only low-risk, safe investments, the court documents allege that Ramos instead risked everything on Puerto Rico’s government bond market — and lost, to the tune of $63 million.
In San Juan Superior Court, the Trinidad father and son are asking a judge to shield them from a $2.9 million debt they allegedly owe to the brokerage subsidiary of Banco Popular, the largest bank on the island.
Ramos denied making bad deals for Felix Trinidad and his father.
“The accusations by the Trinidad family are false and the truth will come out when this case is aired in the pertinent forum,” Ramos said, in a written statement.
Felix Trinidad has not spoken publicly about his apparently dire financial situation, except to issue a statement thanking the people of Puerto Rico for supporting him and calling his predicament “a very difficult situation.”