SBD/May 25, 2012/Franchises

George Steinbrenner's Estate Planning Restrictions Make Sale Of Yankees Challenging

George Steinbrenner set up trusts that would make it difficult for his family to sell the team
The Yankees' "blunt responses" to a N.Y. Daily News report that the owners are shopping the team are based, "in part, on estate planning by George Steinbrenner, who died in 2010, after turning the team into the family’s primary asset," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Sources said that Steinbrenner "set up myriad trusts throughout the Yankees empire for his children and grandchildren that include restrictions that would make selling the team difficult, if not impossible." While the family "could decide to sell the team, all the Steinbrenner heirs would have to agree and present a plan to outside trustees to show that it benefited the family." The proceeds from any sale "would be subject to the federal capital gains tax," which would be at a rate of 15% (NYTIMES.com, 5/24). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said Steinbrenner “thrived on being the Yankees owner” and “defined himself that way." However, his sons, Hal and Hank, "don’t necessarily have the same feelings" that their father did. Kornheiser said, "It might not be so hard for the Steinbrenner boys to look around at a market and go, ‘Oh my God, we have to consider if somebody’s going to pay us $3 billion’” ("PTI," ESPN, 5/24). The N.Y. Daily News' John Harper said, "I think it's Hal’s show, and you always wondered if he's committed to it. For him, I think it's more of a business than for George, it is not about the baseball for him. That thought has been out there that maybe he would sell it at some point.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Bruce Murray: “I don't think there's this love affair with the Yankees that there was for the dad. He treated them like a pet, like a child. For them, it is more of a business and when a business is worth a lot of money, it's sometimes worth investigating if you can get paid for it” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 5/24).

EVERYTHING HAS A PRICE: USA TODAY's Paul White notes the rumors of a sale "raise the question: What is baseball's most storied franchise worth?" SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, "All the Yankees assets together (including the YES Network), you'd be starting mid-$3 billion, approaching $4 billion." An MLB official said that if Hal Steinbrenner "were offered $4 billion, he'd have to take it, though the price could vary based on economic conditions." But White notes any idea of a Yankees sale "might be very abstract" (USA TODAY, 5/25). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard asked, “If the Dodgers are worth $2 billion -- mismanaged, thrown around in divorce court – what are the Yankees worth?" ("Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 5/24). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote owning an MLB team is "less about getting rich than it is staying rich." At the end, "you double your money, at worst." Brown: "These things do run their course, however. ... Maybe they'll sell one day. Maybe they won't. But, it made me think of two things: Everything has its price. And I miss George. And Hank" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/24). In Detroit, Tony Paul writes, "The Steinbrenner clan might not be emotionally equipped to cope with 'rebuilding,' as much as the Yankees actually rebuild (reload probably is a more proper term). So unloading while the market appears white hot, well, it makes sense" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/25).

TROST'S REACTION NOT SURPRISING: In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes it was "not surprising" when Yankees COO Lonn Trost "reacted loudly to the Daily News' story." Trost was "pursuing the 'nuclear' option" during a Thursday appearance on WFAN-AM's "Boomer & Carton Show." He said, "With respect to Major League Baseball, we (the Yankees) will ask the commissioner (Bud Selig) to undertake an investigation and take appropriate action." Raissman notes if MLB "took Trost’s complaint seriously, it would likely conduct an investigation." But pro leagues "usually don’t do internal investigations based on the journalistic issue Trost is dealing with, especially when the sources of the 'rumors' were not confined to MLB." Most likely MLB "had its final say on this matter Thursday when it issued a one-sentence statement saying it has 'received no indications' from Yankees 'representatives' or 'anyone else that the club is for sale.'" The statement made "no mention of an investigation." Raissman: "Not to worry, Trost sounded good on the radio. He made his point" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/25).
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