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Careful estate planning likely ensures Tampa Bay Bucs stay with Glazer family

Transfer of wealth among sports magnates has not always been smooth.

When Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke died in 1997, he left only 10 percent of his estate to his son. He stipulated the club should be sold with the proceeds going to start a foundation.

National Football League owners subsequently voted to sell the Redskins and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium to a group headed by Daniel M. Snyder for $800 million, then a record price for a U.S. sports franchise.

Don't look for the Glazers to follow suit.

The family has a long history of being intensely private and close-knit. On Wednesday — with the passing of the family patriarch Malcolm Glazer — they gave every indication they would stick together and stick with their Tampa Bay sports franchise.

The Buccaneers pledged that careful succession planning ensures ownership of the team will remain within the Glazer family "for generations to come," though it was unclear who among Malcolm and Linda Glazer's six children — five sons and one daughter — would be controlling what. Three of Glazer's children — Joel, Ed and Bryan — are currently Bucs' co-chairmen.

Typically, the surviving spouse inherits the bulk if not all of an estate to avoid federal taxes imposed when assets are passed on to the next generation. Often, it's not until the death of the remaining spouse that any estate issues surface, said Linda Hanna, a Tampa lawyer and longtime estate tax adviser.

But Hanna adds the caveat: "There is no 'typical' when you get to the range of wealth the Glazers are in. It's all very customized."

With a net worth over $4 billion, the Glazer family ranks among the wealthiest in Florida.

Cary Putrino, director of investment advisers statewide for wealthy clients of Fifth Third Bank, agreed with Hanna that the typical scenario of a spouse being the primary beneficiary of a trust doesn't always hold true in complex situations. "You may have numerous trust entities and numerous structures that were set up years ago," he said.

Fueled by soaring media broadcast deals, the value of pro sports teams has risen dramatically over the past couple of decades. That has prompted some team owners to craft complex succession plans, allowing them to shield their heirs from hefty estate tax bills that could force them to sell.

"Typically there are trust agreements drafted and tweaked over time that will dictate how this gets passed on," Putrino said. "The key is the work done prior to his death."

Glazer's lengthy illness dating back to 2006 has given his family ample time to ease ownership succession of the Bucs and mitigate any estate taxes.

Hanna said it's possible that through gifting and trusts set up through the years, majority ownership of Glazer's assets, like the Bucs, has already been passed to the next generation. Glazer years ago shifted ownership of the English soccer team Manchester United to trust funds controlled by his children.

But it's difficult to know details of the Bucs' ownership structure without dissecting the trusts. Hanna said that unless that happens through public disclosure in probate court — which is unlikely — details of trust arrangements could remain private. Much like the Glazers.

Staff writers Robert Trigaux and Ivan Penn contributed to this report.