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Steinbrenner Might Run 3 N.Y. Teams

September 18, 1998 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Why buy the television rights to a team when you can just purchase the team instead?

That appears to be Cablevision’s strategy as it negotiates with George Steinbrenner to buy the New York Yankees in a deal that would give Steinbrenner control of the Yankees, Knicks and Rangers.

The two sides have been talking since November, when Cablevision offered $500 million for the Yankees. Talks intensified recently when Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan substantially increased the price and offered control of the Knicks and Rangers as a sweetener, industry sources, speaking on condition they not be identified, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

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The New York Post reported the new offer could be worth as much as $650 million. But one source said Steinbrenner, who bought the Yankees for $10 million in 1973, would demand considerably more.

Cablevision’s $486 million, 12-year deal to show Yankees games on the MSG network expires after the 2000 season and rights under a new deal could cost more than $100 million a year, prompting Cablevision’s move. Also, the Yankees are in talks with the city about building a stadium that could significantly increase the team’s revenues.

Dolan, who wants to prevent any competitor from using the Yankees to start a rival sports channel in New York, apparently is hoping the opportunity to run three of New York’s most prestigious teams could be too enticing for Steinbrenner to pass up.

The Yankees would be a logical investment for Dolan, whose $500 million offer for the expansion Cleveland Browns fell $30 million short of Alfred Lerner’s winning bid. Acquiring the Yankees would represent a coup for Cablevision in its attempts to solidify a monopoly on New York sports programming. Cablevision owns the Knicks, Rangers and Madison Square Garden and has the rights to the Mets, Islanders, Devils and Nets telecasts on its Fox Sports New York channel.

Cablevision said in a statement: ``We make special note that we have had no discussions to relinquish either the control or management responsibilities of Madison Square Garden and its teams, and we do not expect to have any such discussions in the future.″

Steinbrenner refused to comment, and commissioner Bud Selig downplayed the reports.

``George and I talk a lot,″ Selig said. ``I’m sure if he’s got something to say to me, he’ll say it.″

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Cablevision’s interest in the Yankees is part of a trend in which major media and entertainment companies buy stakes in sports franchises to provide reliable programming.

Comcast Communications recently bought the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers. Time Warner owns stakes in the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and the NHL expansion Atlanta Thrashers. The Walt Disney Co. owns the Anaheim Angels and Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Media mogul Tom Hicks recently bought the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars. The Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Cubs and Ascent Entertainment owns the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche.

In January, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Group bought the Los Angeles Dodgers for $311 million, ensuring the team’s presence on Fox Sports West. The group also has a minority stake in the Knicks and Rangers and an option to buy stakes in the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings.

Murdoch’s BSkyB television has an agreement to buy Manchester United, England’s most prestigious soccer team, for $1 billion.