Say it ain’t so: Hal Steinbrenner could put Yankees up for sale in wake of LA Dodgers’ $2 billion price tag.

By AND / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Manhattan without the Empire State Building? New York without the Statue of Liberty? Brooklyn without the Bridge?

The Yankees without the Steinbrenners?

Rumors are flying in Major League Baseball and New York banking circles that the family that has owned Major League Baseball‘s premiere franchise since Cleveland shipbuilder George Steinbrenner purchased the club for $8.8 million in 1973 is exploring the possibility of selling the Yankees.

Multiple baseball and finance sources told the Daily News they are hearing that the team the Steinbrenner family has led to seven World Series titles could be put on the block in the wake of the record sale price of $2.175 billion the Los Angeles Dodgers went for in April.

“There has been chatter all around the banking and financial industries in the city for a couple of weeks now,” one high-level baseball source told The News.

Yankee president Randy Levine adamantly denied the rumors:
“I can say to you there is absolutely, positively nothing to this. The Steinbrenners are not selling the team.” And managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, George’s younger son, weighed in with his own denial Thursday morning, saying in a statement: “I just read the Daily News story. It is complete fiction. Me and my family have no intention to sell the Yankees and expect it to be in the family for years to come.”
However, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation, the recent sale of the Dodgers to a group that includes NBA legend Magic Johnson is just one reason why the Steinbrenner family may be looking to sell the team, which experts estimate could be worth up to a stunning $3 billion.
“It would definitely be the right time for the family to sell,” said another baseball source familiar with matters involving the league’s owners. “The value of the team couldn’t be higher, but at the same time, it’s an older team in a division with younger teams getting better at the same time a lot of the Yankees‘ core veterans are starting to go into decline.”

Unlike 2009, when the Yankees invested $424 million in CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett to win their first world championship in nine years, Hal Steinbrenner has made it clear he wants to lower the payroll even if the team fails to make the playoffs this year.
“I’m a finance geek. I guess I always have been,” Steinbrenner said during spring training. “That’s my background; budgets matter and balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player development side and you have a good farm system, you don’t need a $220 million payroll. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent.”
Steinbrenner is striving to take advantage of baseball’s new revenue-sharing guidelines, and if the Yankees can get under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, they will benefit threefold: Not only will the club save money on payroll, it won’t have to pay a luxury tax and will reap a revenue-sharing rebate.
“All of that will present a very good financial picture,” the baseball source said.
A third baseball insider agreed that it is a “terrific time for the Steinbrenner family to sell the team.”

Another factor fueling the speculation is the fact that Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t seem to share his father’s passion for baseball, and his brother, Hank, has virtually disappeared from the baseball landscape since he approved an onerous 10-year, $275 million contract for Alex Rodriguez before the 2008 season.

Hal Steinbrenner rarely attends games, and according to those who know him, abhors doling out the huge money long-term contracts such as the Rodriguez deal.
“Hal’s a smart businessman,” the source said. “And I’m just not sure that he considers baseball to be a smart business. I think he looks at some of these other owners, throwing $200 million at players and thinks they’re idiots – idiots that unfortunately can affect the way he does business. You have to understand, it was in Hal’s formative years in the ’80s when he saw George at his worst in terms of throwing more and more good money at bad players like Pascual Perez, Dave LaPoint, Steve Kemp, Ed Whitson and Andy Hawkins.”
Following the decline of his father’s health in the years before his death in 2010, Hal Steinbrenner had been reluctant to take over as the Yankees’ head man; it was only in November of 2008, after his brother approved the A-Rod contract, that Hal agreed to become managing general partner.

The Yankees also face an uncertain future on the field.

Mariano Rivera’s freak knee injury may have ended his Hall of Fame career, while Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are in the twilight of their careers. Players the Yankees hoped would emerge as future stars, such as Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, haven’t panned out. The rise of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles have made the American League East, a division the Yankees dominated for years, that much tougher.

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