Recently, ESPN staff writer Wallace Matthews sat down for an hour-long interview with Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who shares a last name with perhaps the most notorious owner in New York sports history, George Steinbrenner. Following the 2007 health decline and 2010 death of his father who purchased the Yankees in 1973 for $8.3 million, Hal assumed an even larger practical operative role with the franchise's business ventures, but he rarely spends enough time with media for fans to really know him or his family the way we thought we knew his father. Matthews' interview revealed the younger Steinbrenner's pragmatism, his dedication to sustained baseball success, and most interestingly, his family's collective intention to keep the business in the Steinbrenner family for generations to come.
"This is a family business and we're all involved. We all love being a part of this. We all know our dad wanted us to be a part of us, and we all know he's watching down on us and happy that we're all a part of it. Believe it or not, to us, that's a big deal. The idea is, let's keep it going." - Hal Steinbrenner
All four of George Steinbrenner's children have all been involved in some form with the Yankees since the elder's decline in health, which Hal thinks would please his father if he were alive today. It is not a surprise, then, that none of the siblings plans to sell the team anytime soon. It is news, however, that they have already begun to familiarize their children, George's grandkids, with the inside aspects of operation the Yankees as a business.
According to Hal Steinbrenner, Stephen Swindal Jr. (son of Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal), George Michael Steinbrenner and Julia Steinbrenner Vinas (son and daughter of Hank Steinbrenner), Robert Molloy (son of Jessica Steinbrenner Molloy) and Hal's daughter Katherine are all interested in being part of the next generation of Steinbrenners to run the Yankees.
"It's already been discussed," Hal Steinbrenner said. "We got a lot of grandkids, and they're very interested. The idea is, it's time to let the young elephants in the tent, in George's words. So it's begun."
Hal Steinbrenner does not have the same fiery passion for the Yankees that his father made public to the point of infamy. "Nobody can," if you ask him, so it would be foolish to expect him to obsessively or even actively oversee the team into his 70s. Hal is only 47 years old, so he should remain active with the franchise for about two more decades, which provides context to a timeline for any eventual successor(s). Basically, the most important decision-makers for the Yankees do not plan to sell the team for at least the next 40 to 50 years.
This information contributes to make the Yankees arguably the most stable franchise in Major League Baseball. The current 43 year tenure of Steinbrenner ownership exceeds that of any other by nearly a decade; Jerry Reinsdorf purchased the Chicago White Sox in 1981, the same year David Montgomery's partnership group purchased the Philadelphia Phillies.
Although neither of those owners can be considered likely to sell in the near future, each instance also lacks the unique dynamics associated with a family business. Reinsdorf is the sole owner of the White Sox, for example, and the team isn't even his most prized Chicago sports franchise because he also owns the six-time champion Bulls. Montgomery is widely known to love the Phillies as a Philadelphia native, but he is a minority owner and cannot be said to have the same direct control over his franchise's fate as the Steinbrenner family.
This puts the Yankees in a unique ownership situation going forward. The Steinbrenner brood oversees the second-most valuable sports franchise in the world but refuses to entertain the idea of cashing in due to sentimental reasons and because they would not know what to do with the money. Each of George Steinbrenner's children has been rich for decades, which only multiplied when they sold a percentage of their YES Network ownership to Fox in 2012, netting the family a little more than half a billion dollars.
"My dad loved Oldsmobiles. We had a Buick station wagon. We don't have yachts. We don't have huge estates. We don't have the lifestyle that would even necessitate us to even think about [selling the team]. What the hell for?" - Hal Steinbrenner
With a last name like Steinbrenner, you cannot blame current and future generations for their desire to remain in the business of baseball. Thanks largely to the YES Network and the new stadium's ability to attract rich clientele, the Steinbrenners can continue to make tons of money, provide incredible opportunities to their children, and foster their father's legacy on the field and in charitable endeavors. Considering the future viability of the New York City market and the Yankees' legacy of success, it would be difficult to identify a more stable ownership situation in professional baseball. Juxtaposing their situation with the likes of Miami or even the crosstown Mets reveals the inherent value of competent ownership stability, with which the Yankees seem equipped for generations to come.