The Steinbrenner family is worth around $4 billion and owns stakes in multiple businesses.
However, most people only know them for owning one of the most famous sports teams in the world: The New York Yankees.
The family’s ownership of the Yankees began with George Steinbrenner, a larger than life figure who won seven World Series titles with the team.
He also built the Yankee brand into an incredibly profitable business, one that brought in nearly $700 million in revenue during 2019 alone.
So, whether they lift the Commissioner’s Trophy or not, the Steinbrenners are winners when every MLB season ends.
But how did the Steinbrenners end up in this win-win situation?
To put it simply, because of “The Boss.”
It Starts With George
The Steinbrenners were wealthy long before George came along.
The main source of their money was a shipping company, Kinsman Marine Transit, which the Steinbrenners got involved with in 1901.
George Steinbrenner, known by everyone in the baseball world as “The Boss,” was born in Ohio in July 1930.
His father, Henry, was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and a collegiate level hurdler. George’s mother, Rita, was an Irish immigrant.
By all accounts, Henry was a hard man and a control freak who ruled both the shipping company and his family with an iron fist.
George’s upbringing in Cleveland was difficult because of this as he explained in an interview:
“He [Henry] was a pusher. He led, and we followed. You could run three races in one day and get two firsts and a second, and the only thing he wanted to talk about was, How did you get beat? What did you do wrong? […] I was mad at him all the time. I was mad a lot. But I found myself working that much harder to prove to him I could do it.”
As a young man, George graduated from Williams College and Ohio State University. He had several jobs including being an Air Force officer and a college sports coach.
After his time coaching football, George gave in to the inevitable and joined the family shipping company in 1957.
He soon proved himself a good businessman by revitalizing the company.
One of George’s best business moves came when he bought up the American Shipbuilding Company. It merged with Kinsman in 1967 and brought further wealth to the family.
Six years later, George led a group of 12 people in buying The New York Yankees from CBS for $10 million.
At the time of purchasing, George said he would have nothing to do with the day-to-day running of the business. But within a year he had bought out most of the partners and was already making his presence felt.
This was the beginning of a reign that would last over 30 years.
The Yankees And The Boss
As the owner of the Yankees, George was hell-bent on two things: Winning the World Series and transforming the Yankees into a money making machine.
He achieved both.
The Yankees won seven World Series and 11 pennants under George thanks, in part, to his hard-nosed approach to team ownership.
This involved spending huge sums of money to lure star players from other teams, including Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson.
George also developed the Yankees minor league system, a talent development network that helped build Yankee icons like Derek Jeter.
Never one to shy away from controversial decisions, George changed managers 20 times in his first 23 seasons and even implemented a personal appearance policy which banned players from having any facial hair apart from mustaches. A policy that still stands today.
From a financial aspect the Yankees were an even greater success under George.
This was thanks to huge marketing deals including a 10-year agreement with Adidas that was worth $95 million.
The Yankees even built their own regional sports network, YES Network. In 2005 alone YES Network made $257 million in revenue.
One year later the Yankees became the first baseball team to be valued at $1 billion.
But even this milestone did not slow George down.
During 2008 he joined forces with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to form Legends Hospitality, a business focused on event management and concessions that is worth over $1 billion today.
However, the late 2000s marked a decline in George’s health and he steadily gave his work over to members of his family.
In 2010, he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 80. He was worth approximately $1.1 billion at the time.
Joan, George’s wife, who was vice chair of the Yankees, died eight years later. She was 83.
The Steinbrenner Children
George and Joan Steinbrenner had 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 got one-fourth of George’s estate.
However, their combined familial wealth of nearly $4 billion dollars only makes them the 10th wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball.
Hank Steinbrenner, the oldest of the four siblings, was 15 when his father bought the New York Yankees. He was involved with the team as a general manager apprentice and also as a general partner.
However, Hank turned down 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.
Another family member that has had limited involvement with the Yankees, despite her status as general partner, is Jessica Steinbrenner.
Like Hank, Jessica 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.
Many saw Jennifer Steinbrenner 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.
Despite being the youngest of the Steinbrenner children, Hal 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.
What Does The Future Hold?
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.
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