Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Restaurateur saw other side of George Steinbrenner

TAMPA— Restaurateur Malio Iavarone remembers George Steinbrenner III as a mere human with a big heart, an explosive temper — and a few regrets.

"He was sorry when things he said came out negative," Iavarone said of Steinbrenner, his friend of more than 30 years.

Steinbrenner, the 80-year-old Tampa resident and New York Yankees owner, died Tuesday of a heart attack.

Steinbrenner was a regular at the old Malio's steak house on S Dale Mabry Highway, where business deals went down over red meat and a side of Caesar salad.

The big guy let his guard down when only his closest friends were around, revealing a side few people ever saw.

"He loved people, but he didn't know how to show it," Iavarone said Tuesday. "Lot of things he said, he never meant the way they came out. It would hurt him when he hurt someone's feelings, but he would never apologize."

Even Iavarone was a target of a few of the famous outbursts. Never mind that Steinbrenner was just a customer.

"He actually fired me from Malio's one night,'' he said. "I didn't pay no attention to him."

But the bond of their friendship knew no bounds.

Steinbrenner once flew Iavarone and Tampa stockbroker Jimmy Warren and their wives to New York.

"He took care of everything," Iavarone said. "Dinner at Elaine's, rooms at the Plaza."

Then there was the broken elevator.

"The Warrens got stuck in the elevator for 16 hours,'' Iavarone said. "George found out and came down like Patton, screaming, 'Get my friend out of there, and I mean now!' He woke up the whole hotel."

In the late 1990s, Steinbrenner picked up the restaurant's $1.5 million mortgage.

"I thought he was kidding,'' Iavarone said, recalling Steinbrenner's offer.

"He said, 'What the hell's wrong with you? I've been telling you for over a year. Don't you trust me?,' " Iavarone said.

His deal: No interest until Iavarone retired or sold the place.

But when the lawyers and accountants got involved, they insisted on 2.5 percent annual interest.

Steinbrenner roared his displeasure, ultimately acquiescing to the low interest. But he accepted no principal payments until the restaurant sold in 2005.

"He was as tough as they come,'' Iavarone said. "If he told you he was going to do something, he did it. He was the Boss."

They almost did business again, when Ivarone and his son Derek were opening Malio's Prime in downtown Tampa in 2007.

"He offered me $2 million to be a 50-50 partner," Iavarone said. "Lou Piniella is a witness."

But something was off.

"We could tell George was not the same George,'' he said. "They've been hiding his health for years, but they couldn't fool me."

Iavarone will sorely miss his friend.

"I adore the guy, you understand me?"

Restaurateur saw other side of George Steinbrenner 07/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 6:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. How to make a Strawberry Banana Smoothie


    Don't enjoy breakfast but need to get something in your stomach? Cranky around 3 p.m. and need a jolt of energy? Have trouble getting your daily recommended fruit servings? This smoothie is the cure for all of that and more. It's become my morning go-to. The secret ingredient here is kefir, a probiotic product that's …

    Strawberry Banana Smoothie. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. How to tell if the price is right on your next prescription


    Filling a prescription is no longer the simple errand you run after a doctor visit.

    Photo illustration. []
  3. Rubio to Seminole County GOP: 'America is going to be okay'


    Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a reshaped stump speech Tuesday night to the Seminole County GOP, touching on many of the same points he made as a presidential candidate but adapting it to the tumultuous politics of the moment.

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami.
  4. Dad's app freezes your child's phone until your texts are answered

    Human Interest

    Parents of teens know how vital cell phones can be when they need to reach their kids — especially during an emergency.

    Nick Herbert, who lives in the United Kingdom, grew tired of his teenage son ignoring his texts, so he made an app to fix the problem. ReplyASAP takes over the phone's screen, overrides any silent functions and sets off an alarm, essentially forcing teens to respond to their parents in order to regain access to their phones. [Screengrab from website]
  5. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Miami-based Related Group has broken ground on a 400-unit apartment complex planned on the site of the former Tampa Tribune building in downtown Tampa.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]