Steinbrenner family may face tax battle

LOS ANGELES -- The Steinbrenner family could be facing a billion-dollar battle over keeping its tax money.

Because of a loophole for 2010, the Steinbrenner family stands to save around $500 million in taxes after the death George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees. However, a group of senators are proposing legislation that, if passed, would mean the Steinbrenner family would be forced to pay back taxes.

"It would be retroactive and that is something the Supreme Court has held up in previous years," said Michael Briggs, the communications director for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Sen. Sanders is one of the sponsors of the Responsible Estate Tax Act, which in part seeks to close the anomaly of the 2010 estate tax law. If Steinbrenner had died in 2009 or 2011, his family would have been subject to a more than a 50 percent federal tax on their inheritance. Steinbrenner's worth has been estimated by Forbes at $1.15 billion.

If the Responsible Estate Tax Act were passed, there would surely be a long legal fight over its constitutionality.

The Steinbrenner family has planned for years to keep the Yankees upon George Steinbrenner's death, according to sports consultant Marc Ganis, who has worked with the team. Thus, even if the family were subject to the tax, there is a good chance it would still have the funds to continue ownership.

Ganis, the president of SportsCorp Limited, had been friends with George Steinbrenner for 15 years and consulted the Yankees on a number of projects.
Ganis said that the Yankees are worth roughly $1.6 billion, and the team owns a 40 percent share of YES Network. Ganis valued the Yankees' YES stake at about $1.2 billion, going on the assumption that YES is worth $3 billion in total. That would make the Yankees and YES worth around $3 billion to the Steinbrenners.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.