George Steinbrenner reportedly has reached an agreement in principle to sell the New York Yankees to Cablevision Systems Corp. for $550 million to $600 million.
As part of the sale, Steinbrenner would remain in charge of day-to-day operations of the team.
According to a broadcast report, the deal was agreed to on Thursday and called for Steinbrenner to turn over full ownership of the team to the cable network for $600 million.
The Daily News reported the sale would be completed after Jan. 1 for tax reasons and said it called for Cablevision to buy 70 percent of the team for $550 million.
Cablevision president James Dolan, whose father is chairman of the company, said Sunday he would not comment on "rumors or speculation." He said Cablevision "maintains an active interest in the future of our relationship with Mr. Steinbrenner and the Yankees."
Howard Rubenstein, who handles public relations for Steinbrenner, confirmed the Yankees' owner had been talking with Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan but said there was nothing to announce.
Arthur Richman, a senior adviser to Steinbrenner, said of the reported sale: "We've been hearing this for weeks. He's never told us."
If the deal goes through at either of the reported prices, it would be a record for a baseball team and the second-highest price ever paid for a sports franchise behind the pending $1 billion sale of the English soccer team Manchester United to Rupert Murdoch.
Earlier this year, Murdoch paid $311 million for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Alfred Lerner paid $530 million last month for the rights to an NFL expansion team in Cleveland.
Charles Dolan and his brother, Larry, were finalists fothe NFL team with a bid of $500 million. Earlier, Charles Dolan became a major player in sports with the purchase of Madison Square Garden and that arena's two pro teams, the NBA New York Knicks and the NHL New York Rangers.
Part of that purchase included Madison Square Garden Network, which holds broadcast rights to the Yankees in a 12-year, $486 million deal that expires in two years. By purchasing the team, Cablevision assures itself of retaining those rights, a major asset for the network.
Cablevision, the country's sixth largest cable company, also owns Radio City Music Hall, a chain of New York City home appliance stores and the Broadway show "The Scarlet Pimpernel."
Talks have gone on for some time between the Yankees and Cablevision and Steinbrenner reported on them to his limited partners during two days of meetings in Cleveland last week.
Steinbrenner, 68, led a group that paid $10 million to purchase the Yankees from CBS in 1973. He has seen the value of the team zoom, particularly with two World Series championships in the last three years and a record 125 victories last season.
At one time, it was thought Steinbrenner wanted to keep control of the Yankees within his family but his sons, Henry and Hal, have expressed little interest in running the team.
A sale would shift the burden of the Yankee Stadium dispute from Steinbrenner to Cablevision. Steinbrenner wants a new ballpark, complete with luxury boxes and more parking, to replace the 75-year-old stadium in the Bronx.
The stadium lease expires in 2002 and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has supported Steinbrenner's demand for a new park on the West Side of Manhattan. The owner also has talked with New Jersey representatives about moving the franchise there if he does not get a new stadium.
Giuliani said it was "too early to say what impact a sale might have on possible plans for a new stadium."
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