Archive for George Steinbrenner
Over the weekend, I reported on a lawsuit filed against George Steinbrenner. Bob Gutkowski, formerly an executive at the MSG Network, has sued the Boss for damages up to around $43 million. He claims that George stole the YES Network idea from him and never delivered a promised job as head of the network or the compensation that would come with it.
Today, I secured a copy of the complaint for all of the RAB legal eagles to read. I haven’t had a chance to peruse it yet and probably won’t until later tonight. You can read it below in the Scribd embed or grab the PDF here. I’ll try to offer up some analysis over the next few days.
By many accounts, the YES Network has been one of the greatest Yankee success stories of the last ten years (and I’m not just saying that because of our affiliation with them). The regional sports network has garnered high ratings for its games and has allowed the team to capture even more revenue. With in-market streaming deals now in place, the team and the network stand to gain even more, and some estimates value the YES Network at $3 billion.
Now, though, a former MSG head is claiming that George Steinbrenner and the Yankees stole the idea for a team-focused RSN from him, and after years of haggling with the team, Bob Gutkowski filed a $23 million lawsuit in federal court yesterday for fraud and breach of contract. While the court filing isn’t yet available online, Richard Sandomir has more:
Bob Gutkowski, who as president of the MSG Network negotiated a 12-year, $493.5 million deal in 1988 with the Yankees and is the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that he had several meetings with Steinbrenner, starting in 1996, to discuss the idea of a Yankees network. He said he also made a presentation in 1998 to Steinbrenner and other Yankees executives that laid out how to build a regional sports network controlled by the team.
At one meeting in 1997, according to the lawsuit, Steinbrenner said he wanted to use the threat of starting a network to get $1 billion for a 10-year extension from MSG.
“At no point did Steinbrenner, regarded for his business acumen, conceive of creating a Yankees television network,” Gutkowski said in his papers. “The idea and plan was solely Mr. Gutkowski’s.” He added that Steinbrenner “knowingly and continuously misrepresented” an oral agreement that Gutkowski would run or be part of the network.
Interestingly, as Sandomir points out, Gutkowski has named Steinbrenner as the sole defendant in the case. According to Newsday’s Neil Best, Gutkowski claims that Steinbrenner made a personal promise to him regarding the network. It is doubtful that Steinbrenner will be able to testify in his behalf, and the Yankees may instead have to rely upon Lonn Trost and Randy Levine for statements in court.
The Yankees termed the suit “patently false and frivolous.” Said Howard Rubenstein, “Mr. Gutkowski had nothing to do with the initiation of the idea for an R.S.N. for the New York Yankees, nor did he have any role in the establishment or the success of the YES Network.”
In his court filings, Gutkowski alleges that Steinbrenner promised him the reins to the new RSN. While a consulting contract materialized for Gutkowski, he alleges that he did not get the position promised to him and that his suggestions were ignored.
Said the plaintiff in a statement, “I did everything possible to avoid having to sue George Steinbrenner. I have repeatedly spoken with his people and asked for a meeting directly with George. Unfortunately, their position was to stall me, string me along and, in the end, block the meeting. Their actions made it clear that the only way for me to be fairly compensated for the idea that I brought to George and the work that I performed was to sue him.”
For the legal eagles among us, I’ll try to get the filing posted as soon as it’s available. This is one case definitely worth watching.
George Steinbrenner turns 79 today, and although he’s scaled back his involvement with the team, his impact still resonates throughout the organization. The New York Yankees wouldn’t be what they are or where they are today without him.
Happy Birthday, big guy. And thanks.
Where would the Yankees be right now without George Steinbrenner? It’s absolutely impossible to say for certain, other than “not like they are now.” Which can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on your worldview.
Whenever I see something George-related, my ears and eyes perk up. Peter Golenbock, of The Bronx Zoo fame, recently published a biography of The Boss, titled George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Built the Yankees Empire. It’s on my reading stack, but unfortunately it’s a ways down. Seeing as I might not get to it for a while, it was nice to see Hugging Harold Reynolds post an interview with the author, wherein he talks about his subject.
While the whole interview is worth a look, my favorite part came when HHR asked Golenbock about Hal and Hank — specifically about how the team will be run and how it will be different from their father’s reign. Says Golenbock:
What the Yankee fans can expect in years to come is a much more rational approach to running the team. With George at the helm, he would ignore the advice of his talented baseball scouts and general managers, often making stupid or ill-advised personnel decisions. Buying Steve Trout was just one of many such decisions. Hal and Hank will be more likely to trust their baseball people and sign players who will help them more often than not. The signing of Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira are proof that they will sign talented players, not too-old retreats or pitchers with reputations who are injured, as George did. Since the Yankees will be making a fortune from ticket sales and from the YES nature, their overspending won’t break the bank. In my opinion, the Yankees will be a much more dangerous franchise going forward.
A franchise more dangerous than one which won six championships under George? Now that’s scary good. Then again, citing only those six championship seasons overlooks a number of other factors, including the Yankees cellar dwelling in the late 80s, and that the late 90s dynasty was assembled while George was banned from baseball. Still, to say that the franchise will be run better seems a bit of a stretch.
Why isn’t George higher up on my reading list? Other than having more interesting books ahead of it, there’s another reason: factual accuracy. Murray Chass (h/t BBTF) points to Goldenbock’s history of inaccuracies, and warns of much the same from George. This isn’t just Chass’s criticism; these errors have been acknowledged by the book’s publisher, John Wiley & Sons.
What does that mean? It means that Goldenbock has written another baseball book, another book about the Yankees, and that’s not good. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. It’s dangerous because whenever he has written a baseball book, Golenbock has created errors for posterity.
Years from now some kid will take a Golenbock book out of his school library and think he is reading an accurate history. Golenbock and accuracy are an oxymoron.
The review includes an expression of regret from the author for the mistakes and a statement from the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, which said in part, “Regarding Peter Golenbock’s book, we are currently taking steps internally to correct the errors which will be reflected in the next reprint.”
But the reviewer must be faulted, too. “As an avid baseball fan,” he writes, “I’ve enjoyed Golenbock’s past works, which include collaborations with former Yankees Graig Nettles, Billy Martin and Sparky Lyle. Those associations gave me good reason to expect ‘George’ to be interesting and entertaining.”
How could he have read those other Golenbock books without finding the same kind of faulty writing he exposed in “George?” He would have had to have read the books with his eyes closed not to see them. The Lyle book, “The Bronx Zoo,” for example, contains 68 factual errors.
Sixty-eight factual errors. Don’t they pay people to go through books and find these? It might seem like Chass nitpicks with some of these errors, but I don’t take issue at all. If Golenbock is making simple errors on things like hotel names and the handedness of a batter (uh, Duke Snider was a righty?), what other lazy errors is he making?
One of these days, we’re going to get an 800-page biography of Mr. Steinbrenner, and it will be glorious. It won’t dabble in psychology and try to define George’s various compulsions and neuroses. It will cover the man and his effect on the people around him. Hey, maybe that’s a future RAB project. I think we’d have more than a few willing participants.
George Steinbrenner doesn’t pop up too often in New York City these days. He is reportedly in very bad health, and in Joe Torre’s book, Steinbrenner comes across as suffering from either Alzheimer’s or dementia. Despite the 78-year-old’s frailty, according to Kat O’Brien, Steinbrenner will be at the Yanks’ home opener in April. Kat’s sources say George is confined to a wheelchair these days and probably won’t make a public appearance because of that. The old lion, though, will still want to see the new stadium after which he had lusted for so many years. I wonder if he’ll be able to truly appreciate the new digs.
With former teammates questioning his credibility on the first day of Spring Training, Alex Rodriguez may be in for a long 2009, and the Yankees’ Front Office seems to be keeping their slugger at arm’s distance. A-Rod will face the media circus on Tuesday, and the team wants him to be as forthcoming as possible. Meanwhile, Ken Davidoff wonders if George Steinbrenner’s tough love would have helped A-Rod save face. At this point, not even King George at his finest could have saved baseball from itself right now.
Few Yankee fans realize it, but Jan. 3 is actually a rather significant day in Yankee history. It was on this day in 1973 that a syndicate headed by George M. Steinbrenner III paid a meager sum of $10 million to the Columbia Broadcasting System for the New York Yankees.
In today’s dollars, the Yankees cost Steinbrenner and his group around $47,843,468.47 or what Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter make an a season. That price was, according to The Times article about the sale, a real steal, and CBS took a loss on their investment. “It’s the best buy in sports today,” Steinbrenner said about the Yanks. “I think it’s a bargain. But they [CBS] feel the chemistry is right. They feel they haven’t taken a loss on the team.”
While Steinbrenner bought the team after it a decade of losing seasons and its first sub-one million attendance season since World War II, he has, as we all know, turned the franchise into the premier team in sports with six World Series championships over the last 36 years, a new stadium and a run of attendance topping the four million mark. Needless to say, the team is worth far more than $47 million today.
Meanwhile, the best part of the article announcing the sale is the final quote from Steinbrenner. “We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned,” he said. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”
Truer words are often spoken.
Anyway, use this thread as your evening open thread. We’ve got two NFL playoff games today, and the Nets, Rangers and Islanders are all in action. Just play nice.
The photo above is of Yogi, George and Billy Martin in 1976 and comes via The Daily News.
Joe Posnanski chimes in with his view of the outgoing Yankee owner. He offers up a though-provoking take on George Steinbrenner‘s quest for celebrity and the successes, failures and dominant storylines of his three-and-a-half decade run in New York.
When Hal Steinbrenner officially assumed control of the Yankees last week, an era of baseball history came to close. For 30 years, George, spending billions of dollars, has gone from a wild and crazy guy devoted to winning to a somewhat tempered owner still obsessively devoted to winning. Along the way, he’s made countless enemies, broken numerous baseball rules and forever altered the economic face of the game.
Earlier this year, I looked at the Boss’ Bronx legacy, and then Reggie called for George to land in the Hall. Over the next few years, we’ll hear a lot of those arguments — impact vs. personality — rehashed, but for now, writers are struggling with his quiet departure.
In a piece from the West Coast, Steve Dilbeck pens a Dodgers-centric paean to King George. A lot of us are too young to remember it, but the Dodgers and Yankees were primary interleague rivals during Steinbrenner’s early years as manager. While that rivalry has faded, the Boss’ best hyperbole came out when the Yanks and Dodgers squared off in the playoffs. Dilbeck looks back, almost fondly, on that era and wonders how the Boss managed to fade away so quietly. It truly is the end of an era of baseball history.