The sports world is in mourning today, as iconic New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away early this morning at the age of 80. The extremely quotable, always-intense Steinbrenner set a remarkable precedent for sports owners, as he turned the position from a quiet spot behind closed doors into a pulpit that could turn you into a superstar. Think of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban or Dallas Cowboys head honcho Jerry Jones — neither of them would be possible without the dynamism, public awareness and occasional off-the-handle nuttiness of Steinbrenner.
Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees (who were a struggling franchise at the time) for $10 million in 1973 (staggering considering the estimated value of the team today is over $1 billion). He became known as much for his volatility as he did for his winning ways. The Yankees won the World Series seven times and were perennial contenders during his tenure as owner, but he also grabbed headlines for making strange trades, feuding openly with his own players, paying way over market value for top superstars and going through managers and general managers like they were disposable tissues (in a hilarious twist, he fired manager Billy Martin a total of five times over a 15 year period).
But Steinbrenner was a business man first. He tapped into the lucrative licensing and apparel market with a handful of exclusive deals, became the first owner to sell his team’s broadcasting rights on cable (and then forming his own network when the deal went sour) and turned the Yankees into the second most valuable sports franchise in the world (just behind elite British soccer team Manchester United). Steinbrenner was one of the great bosses, equal parts benevolent ruler and scowling tyrant, so spin Slim Thug’s “Like a Boss” in his honor.