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Steinbrenner Legacy: The Powerhouse Behind the New York Yankees

Home » Steinbrenner Legacy: The Powerhouse Behind the New York Yankees

In the realm of affluence and enterprise, the Steinbrenner lineage holds a formidable position, with an estimated net worth of $4 billion, spread across a diverse portfolio of ventures. Yet, their claim to fame is primarily attributed to their proprietorship of a globally recognized sports franchise, The New York Yankees.

The genesis of this association traces back to George Steinbrenner, an individual of grandiose persona, who under his stewardship, led the team to clinch seven World Series titles. His astute business acumen transformed the Yankee brand into a lucrative enterprise, amassing nearly $700 million in revenue in 2019 alone. Consequently, irrespective of the season’s outcome, the Steinbrenners invariably emerge victorious.

The inception of this advantageous circumstance can be attributed to the indomitable spirit of “The Boss.”

George Steinbrenner, universally acknowledged in the baseball fraternity as “The Boss,” was born in Ohio in July 1930. His lineage was already affluent, with their primary source of wealth being a shipping company, Kinsman Marine Transit, which the Steinbrenners joined in 1901.

George’s father, Henry, was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus and a collegiate level hurdler, while his mother, Rita, was an Irish immigrant. Henry, a stern and controlling individual, governed both the shipping company and his family with an iron fist, making George’s upbringing in Cleveland challenging.

George, after graduating from Williams College and Ohio State University, held various positions, including an Air Force officer and a college sports coach. In 1957, he joined the family shipping business, where he demonstrated his business prowess by rejuvenating the company.

One of George’s most astute business decisions was the acquisition of the American Shipbuilding Company, which merged with Kinsman in 1967, further augmenting the family’s wealth. In 1973, George led a consortium of 12 individuals to purchase The New York Yankees from CBS for $10 million.

Despite initially stating that he would not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business, within a year, he had bought out most of the partners and began asserting his influence. This marked the commencement of a reign that would span over three decades.

As the Yankees’ proprietor, George was resolute in his pursuit of two objectives: clinching the World Series and transforming the Yankees into a profitable enterprise. He accomplished both. The Yankees secured seven World Series and 11 pennants under George’s leadership, partly due to his uncompromising approach to team ownership.

This involved investing substantial sums to attract star players from other teams, including Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. George also cultivated the Yankees minor league system, a talent development network that fostered Yankee icons like Derek Jeter.

From a financial perspective, the Yankees flourished under George’s stewardship, thanks to lucrative marketing deals, including a 10-year agreement with Adidas worth $95 million. The Yankees even established their own regional sports network, YES Network, which generated $257 million in revenue in 2005 alone.

In 2006, the Yankees became the first baseball team to be valued at $1 billion. However, this milestone did not deter George. In 2008, he collaborated with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to establish Legends Hospitality, an event management and concessions business currently valued at over $1 billion.

The late 2000s, however, marked a decline in George’s health, leading him to gradually delegate his responsibilities to his family members. In 2010, he succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 80, with an estimated net worth of approximately $1.1 billion. Joan, George’s wife and vice chair of the Yankees, passed away eight years later at the age of 83.

George and Joan Steinbrenner were blessed with four children: Hank, Jessica, Jennifer, and Hal. All four were named general partners in the Yankees, although some of the children have been more involved in the organization than others. Forbes estimates that the four children each inherited one-fourth of George’s estate. However, their combined familial wealth of nearly $4 billion dollars only ranks them as the 10th wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball.

Hank Steinbrenner, the eldest of the four siblings, was 15 when his father purchased the New York Yankees. He was involved with the team as a general manager apprentice and also as a general partner. However, Hank declined his father’s offer of running the team when George was banned from baseball during the 1990s. Instead, Hank preferred to breed horses on the family stud farm. After George’s death, Hank’s younger brother Hal was named managing general partner as Hank did not wish to spend large amounts of time in New York. Although he had limited involvement in the Yankees throughout his life, Hank was very outspoken and was known for the same gruff, opinionated comments as his father. Hank passed away in 2020 due to an illness. He was 63.

Jessica Steinbrenner, like Hank, prefers horses to baseballs and runs the family’s 880-acre stud farm, Kinsman Farm. She is also the author of two children’s books. Her ex-husband, Joe Molloy, was a vital part of the Yankees’ front office as managing general partner from 1988 to 1997. He even ran the team during one of George’s suspensions. However, Molloy cut all ties with the team after he and Jessica divorced in 1998.

Jennifer Steinbrenner, many saw as the natural successor to George. She majored in business at the University of North Carolina and was even named a Morehead Scholar. Upon graduating, Jennifer worked in the Yankee’s public affairs department for a year but did not progress further. This was due to her father’s misogynistic views on women in business, as Jennifer hinted at in an interview: ”Even if I wanted to move up in the organization, I would’ve never been allowed. Not in this family.” In contrast, her first husband, Steve Swindal, was made general partner in the Yankees and was even named as George’s heir to take over the team. However, Swindal left the organization after the pair divorced in 2007. Instead of running the baseball side of things, Jennifer has dedicated her life to philanthropy. She is a supporter of many charitable organizations and is the president of both the New York Yankees Foundation and the New York Yankees Tampa Foundation.

Hal Steinbrenner, despite being the youngest of the Steinbrenner children, has become the family’s leader. This was a gradual process: Hal was elected chair of the Board of Yankee Global Enterprises in September 2007. This was followed by his confirmation as chairman 13 months later by all the MLB owners. Since taking over the running of the Yankees from his father, Hal has shown a similar belief in spending big. In recent years the Yankees have been at the center of some huge deals including paying $325 million for slugger Giancarlo Stanton and $324 million for pitcher Gerrit Cole. Most recently, Hal signed off on a $360 million deal to retain record breaking home run hitter Aaron Judge. Unlike his father, Hal has not had championship success to back up this spending. The Yankees’ last World Series came in 2009 and recent playoff losses to the Houston Astros have been difficult for both the team and the family to swallow. Business-wise, Hal has had some success during his time as Yankee chairman. For example, the Steinbrenner family earned $584 million in 2012 when it sold part of YES Network to Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox.

Forbes recently valued the Yankees as the 4th most valuable sports team in the world. The franchise is now worth $6 billion. For comparison, the next most valuable MLB team is the Los Angeles Dodgers who ranked 26th in the world at $4.08 billion. In other words, the Yankees are set to continue building their reputation as the league’s biggest earners. As for the Steinbrenners, they seem determined to keep the Yankees in the family. “We’re all in,” Jennifer said to The New York Post. “I hope we own the team for eternity. You never know what life will bring, but we’re in it for the long haul.” Hal has already got some of the younger Steinbrenner’s working in the various Yankee offices. At the moment, we’re still not sure who will get the nod as his successor. Whether it’s Hal or another Steinbrenner at the helm, New York Yankee fans will be hoping for one thing. That the chair of the organization can do justice to The Boss’s memory and bring the World Series back to Yankee Stadium.