On July 13, 2010, George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees, died. It has been widely reported that 37 years ago he bought the Yankees for about $10 million. The Yankees are now reported to be worth $1.6 billion. He became the face of the Yankees, butted heads with several of his managers, other team owners and the commissioner of baseball through the years. He was known as the “Boss” and moved the Yankee team from the “House that Ruth Built” to the “House that the Boss Built” as the team moved to a new Yankee Stadium in 2009.
Mr. Steinbrenner appears to also have been the fourth billionaire to die in 2010, joining Dan Duncan, Mary Janet Morse Cargill, and Walter Shorenstein as the U.S. billionaires who have died in 2010. So why is this significant? Well, if you have been following this blog and the news on the federal estate tax you know that there is no federal estate tax on the wealth of those that die this year. He is likely the most famous of the billionaires to have died this year and will add a public face to the estate tax debate. For some, his death will represent a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue. (For an analysis of Mr. Steinbrenner's estate issues see this Forbes entry). For the opponents of the estate tax, his death illustrates the benefit many small business and family farms could receive if the estate tax was permanently repealed.
There was a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Too Rich to Live?” which may be of interest to you. A few years ago I heard a speaker jokingly talk about 2010 as being the “Push Mamma from the Train” year for wealthy individuals. Hopefully this will remain a joke. I hope we don’t hear a story about a family trying to decide if perhaps “daddy is just to rich to live beyond 2010.”