Mary Lou Retton Got $2M from 2018 Divorce and Maybe Millions More in Lawsuit

( - Olympic champion gymnast Mary Lou Retton walked away with a cool $2million in her 2018 divorce, court papers exclusively reviewed by reveal.

She was also expected to collect around $2million more in compensation after a legal spat with the manufacturer of her two metal hip replacements.

The revelations cast more doubt on why the five-time gold medal winner had no health insurance when she was struck down with a rare form of pneumonia and why her family resorted to begging for cash online to bail her out.

'My amazing mom, Mary Lou, has a very rare form of pneumonia and is fighting for her life,' her daughter Mckenna Kelley, 26, wrote on the fund-raising platform Spot Fund in October.

'She is not able to breathe on her own. She's been in the ICU for over a week now. Out of respect for her and her privacy, I will not disclose all details. However, I will disclose that she not insured.'

The fund raiser asked for $50,000 but raised nearly 10 times that. Multi-millionaire Texas philanthropist Linda Mcingvale donated $50,000 alone.

More than 8,000 others gave much smaller amounts adding comments to the page such as 'Mary Lou is a true American icon & legend. The least we can do is give a little back & support her in her time of need' and 'We're pulling for you, Mary Lou. You're still that kid with the great smile to us! Get well NOW!'

But discovered court papers filed in Houston that showed she had a small fortune following her divorce from Texas Longhorns quarterback-turned-real estate developer Shannon Kelley.

The property division accepted by the court showed that Retton received cash and property worth $1,950,597 as she and Kelley split their assets down the middle after 28 years of marriage.

Not included in that figure were the proceeds from the sale of two houses, one in Houston and the other in Fairmont, West Virginia, which again were to be split 50/50.

Nor were the proceeds from a lawsuit in which she sued Indiana-based medical company Biomet Recovery over two hip replacements that went wrong.

It is not known how much she received but others who sued the company in similar circumstances got around $2million each.

Retton, who turned 56 on Wednesday, found instant fame as a 16-year-old when she won her medals at the 1984 Los Angeles games. She became the first American woman to win an Olympic individual all-around gold when she edged out Romania's Ecaterina Szabo.

But she faced the biggest battle of her life when she was admitted to the ICU in October.

A neighbor had found America's Sweetheart, unable to move and struggling to breathe lying on the bedroom floor at her $600,000 home in a gated community in Boerne, Texas, an hour north of San Antonio.

Retton, who stands at a diminutive 4ft 9in, later told NBC anchor Hoda Kotb that she faced 'death in the eyes' while in intensive care.

'I am blessed to be here because there is a time when they were about to put me on life support,' she said.

'I couldn't afford it, I couldn't afford it, I couldn't afford it,' she said in the interview on January 8.

'But who would even know that this was going to happen to me? That's the bottom line, I couldn't afford it.'

In her interview with NBC, Retton claimed that she could not afford insurance as a recently divorced woman with pre-existing health conditions.

But the 2014 Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, bans insurance companies from rejecting customers based on their past health record.

It also forbids firm from using them as an excuse to charge higher premiums.

Obamacare also offers coverage for those who cannot afford top insurance plans.

The divorce settlement shows the one-time Dancing with the Stars contestant picked up almost $1.5 million from the couple's joint investment account.

The former Olympian, who retired from gymnastics in 1986 aged just 18, also got to keep a 2015 Porsche Panamera sports car that was estimated to be worth $43,000.

According to the mutual agreement, Retton kept the proceeds from a $50,000 endorsement deal as a spokesperson for a top vitamins and supplements firm, as well as $8,000 in cash.

Retton, who was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997, also retained the sole rights over her company MLR Entertainment, Inc.

She used the firm, registered in Texas where there are no corporate income taxes, to receive payment for her media and public appearances.

Her homepage with the D.C.-based talent agency Washington Speakers Bureau states that she asks between $25,000 and $40,000 per speech.

The sales of the couple's two houses also raked in cash. The West Virginia home which they bought for $105,000 in 2007, was sold for $575,000.

The four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot country home built across four acres is now worth more than $625,000.

Their Houston house was sold off for nearly $800,000.

Retton, who was fitted with metal hip replacements in 2005 and 2011, launched legal action against the manufacturer, Biomet, in 2016.

She sued for damages from the company after she needed risky revision surgery to remove the devices.

According to a court filing, she said the implants were plagued by defects that left patients in writhing pain, accusing the Indiana-based firm of negligence and fraud.

The faulty products were the subject of a slew of lawsuits against the company nationwide.

In 2020, two patients from Washington State tried to get Retton to sit for a deposition to tell how the Biomet implants had made her life a misery. 

But Retton slammed their request as 'annoying', claiming that she was too busy with her money-spinning media and public relations work.

'I pride myself on and depend financially (via, e.g., sponsorships, public appearances, literary rights) on my public image and my brand,' Retton said in the sworn statement.

'The disclosure of the confidential and personal information above in a deposition would harm, and potentially devalue, my public image and my brand. That outcome would also harm my children, who depend on me for financial support.'

She added: 'Being deposed would cost me a day of my time, which would interfere in potential and/or promised income received from my current means of work such as, sponsorships, public appearances, and/or literary rights.

'Additionally, expenses incurred and the physical burden of travel and/or appearance for a matter not related to me would be greatly burdensome.'

That lawsuit ended up being settled out of court and Retton was never deposed.

The Olympic champion's image was used to aggressively market the hip replacement products as part of a paid endorsement deal for an undisclosed fee that ran from 2006 to 2013.

Retton had also struck an out-of-court settlement with Biomet on June 27, 2019.

Her divorce deal with Kelley stipulated that she would keep at least 80% of any settlement with Biomet in a structured deal where he would only get 20% if she was awarded more than $2 million. He wouldn't get anything at all if she received less than $200,000.

But the agreement was never made public on confidentiality grounds, so it is unclear how much she received in compensation. has reached out several times to Retton for comment but she did not respond.

By James Franey and Alan Butterfield
January 29, 2024


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