RIP The Boss: His passing in 2010 assures family it can afford to hold on to Yankees

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July

Georgesteinbrenner1982AP  Wake up and good morning. Leave it to The Boss, George Steinbrenner, to be thinking about his cherished New York Yankees baseball empire even in his passing away. Steinbrenner's death occurred six months after the federal estate tax expired, potentially saving his wife and four children roughly a $600 million tab and essentially ensuring they can keep the Yankees -- including Steinbrenner Field (see photo below) and the Yankees' complex in Tampa. (Left: AP Photo. Steinbrenner at his desk in 1981. The sign reads: Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!)

The estate tax fluke -- anybody who dies in 2010 leaves behind no estate tax to the feds -- is a one-year deal only (unless Congress gets creative and fixes this blip earlier than we think). Check out this New York Times story of a Texas billionaire who passed away recently and whose heirs save billions by not having to pay estate taxes.

Back to Steinbrenner. Had The Boss died in late 2009 or lasted until 2011, the Steinbrenner family would have faced a very different financial scenario. Forbes last year estimated Steinbrenner’s net worth at $1.1 billion, meaning that had he lived till next year his kids would have faced $600 million in taxes – and the taxes are due in cash nine months after a person dies. To raise that much money, the New York Post reports, his heirs likely would have been forced to sell the team or borrow massively. Besides, the Yankees are already heavily in debt due to loans used to build the team’s new stadium. Here's more from the Post and the New York Times.

SteinbrennerfieldsignSteinbrenner's residency in Florida also contributes heavily to minimizing estate taxes on his assets, including the Yankees. 

The Post adds that Steinbrenner's home in Tampa is worth about $4 million. He also owns a $1.5 million house in Clearwater, a $1 million beach condo off Gasparilla Sound near Fort Myers, and an $800,000 apartment in Culver, Indiana, where he, his father Henry and both sons attended military school.

So Steinbrenner won the World Series of tax strategies even in his passing. As Ronald Aucutt, a partner at law firm McGuireWoods LLP in McLean, Va., told Bloomberg News: "It is the ultimate home run."

Amen.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 12:00pm]

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