The New York Daily News made waves on Thursday, when they cited unnamed sources in publishing a story stating that the Steinbrenners were "exploring the possibility of selling the Yankees." With the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers recently, the Daily News reported that "experts estimate [the club] could be worth up to a stunning $3 billion." If you ask Hal Steinbrenner, however, he'd say that the newspaper was trying their hand at speculative fiction:
"I just read the Daily News story. It is complete fiction. Me and my family have no intention to sell the Yankees and expect it to be in the family for years to come."
Others seemed just as skeptical of the report, with some even reporting that, due to the trusts set up by George Steinbrenner before his death, it'd be almost impossible for Hal and Hank to sell the team today. Maury Brown has a breakdown of the "non-story" at Biz of Baseball.
I, however, like the idea of this fictional sale of the Yankees. After all, the club has practically been a walking tall tale ever since Babe Ruth blasted his first home run while wearing the pinstripes. The sale of a team with so much history and so much value could only really be handled in the world of fiction anyway. But how would the sale go down?
The Daily News cited estimates of the club's worth at $3 billion, but we don't know if that includes ownership of Yankee Stadium or the club's stake in the YES Network, among other things. It's possible then that, if the environment was right and a bidder was motivated, the club could sell for anywhere between $2 billion and $5 billion (hey, it's a fictional transaction, so let's not hold back!). Anyone trying to purchase the club would have to be extraordinarily wealthy themselves – and that means billionaires. And not the Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates-style billionaires. They're too real for this exercise. No, for a fictional sale we need fictional billionaires.
For most of the last ten years, Forbes magazine has been publishing their "Forbes Fictional 15", a list of the 15 wealthiest characters in any fictional universe. Names like Richie Rich, Bruce Wayne, and C. Montgomery Burns graced that first list, with estimated net worths between $1 billion and $25 billion. In the years since, names like Lex Luthor, Tony Stark, and Jabba the Hutt have come and gone, each with an estimated net worth in the billions. If anyone can buy the Yankees, it's one of these. Here, then, is a look at some of the names that have appeared on that list since 2002 and their likelihood of buying the Yankees in a fictional transaction.
Billionaire: Bruce Wayne
Fictional Universe: DC, Batman
Estimated Net Worth: $6.9 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 1.5 out of 5 dead parents
The billionaire playboy has to put on quite a show to the public, getting drunk in restaurant fountains, absconding with Russian ballet dancers, and the like. In that guise, a Wayne purchase of the Yankees would make sense. Nothing screams "look at me enjoy my extreme wealth" quite like dropping billions on the Yankees. But Wayne is also very much aware of the limitations of his dual life and his nightly duties as the Batman would interfere with running the club. Plus, the Waynes have always been known for their public conscience. It'd be hard to fit the Yankees into that mindset.
Billionaire: Mr. Monopoly
Fictional Universe: the Monopoly boardgame
Estimated Net Worth: $2.5 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 3 out of 4 railroads
The Monopoly boardgame is famously based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey. As a New York-area tycoon, it would be a perfect fit for Mr. Monopoly to buy the Yankees. Any attempts to move the team from the Bronx down to Boardwalk might be met with heavy resistance, however.
Billionaire: Jay Gatsby
Fictional Universe: The Great Gatsby
Estimated Net Worth: $1 billion (2010)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 2.5 out of 5 wild parties
Gatsby's willingness to buy the Yankees would hinge almost entirely on how impressed Daisy Buchanan would be with it. Considering how easily she is enamored with glitz and glamor, it seems like a safe bet that she would approve. However, with only $1 billion to his name, Gatsby might not be wealthy enough to make the purchase. If Daisy were to ever find out…
Billionaire: Thurston Howell, III
Fictional Universe: Gilligan's Island
Estimated Net Worth: $8 billion (2002), $2.1 billion (2010)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 1 out of 5 coconut radios
It's hard to make a multi-billion dollar purchase when you're lost on a small island somewhere in the Pacific.
Billionaire: Willy Wonka
Fictional Universe: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Estimated Net Worth: $8 billion (2002), $1.9 billion (2007)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 1.5 out of 5 Oompa-Loompas
A recluse for many years, Wonka came out of his hard-candy shell once he met Charlie Bucket. As a man of incredible wealth newly-inspired by the childlike innocence of his new friend, any extravagant purchase like this is on the table. Wonka is based in England, however, and shows no signs of interest in American sports.
Billionaire: Carlisle Cullen
Fictional Universe: Twilight series
Estimated Net Worth: $36.3 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 4 out of 5 sparkles
The sparkly vampires of the Twilight series like baseball. With Cullen's immense fortune amassed through 300+ years of compound interest, it would be simple to make the purchase. A baseball team would also fit the nocturnal lifestyle of a vampire fairly well. The biggest drawback to this purchase would be the immense scrutiny the Cullens would be under. A billionaire club owner who doesn't age would be awfully suspicious to those New York rags.
Billionaire: Lucille Bluth
Fictional Universe: Arrested Development
Estimated Net Worth: $0.95 billion
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 0 out of 30 Motherboy dances
There's always money in the banana stand, but nowhere near enough for the Bluth's to buy the Yankees. Maybe if their stock was ever raised above the "Don't Buy!" level they might have a chance.
Billionaire: Jed Clampett
Fictional Universe: Beverly Hillbillies
Estimated Net Worth: $9.8 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 4 out of 5 oil wells
Jed wasn't born of the big city, being a lowly mountaineer. When he hit it rich by discovering an oil well on his property, Jed had no problems moving his family all the way to Beverly Hills, where he was always eager to experience the new world. This type of openness and willingness to spend money makes ol' Jed a top candidate for the new Yankees owner.
Billionaire: Lucius Malfoy
Fictional Universe: Harry Potter
Estimated Net Worth: $1.6 billion (2007)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 1 out of 5 Death Eater marks
Another Brit who has shown very little interest in American sports. Malfoy makes it even harder by being a xenophobic wizard who can't even stand being in the same room as a mudblood. Malfoy does whatever He Who Must Not Be Named tells him to, however. If He saw some value in buying the Yankees, Malfoy would do it at the drop of a hat.
Fictional Universe: The Hobbit
Estimated Net Worth: $62 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 0 out of 13 dwarves
Smaug does not buy things. Smaug does not care for the world of men. If Smaug knew of the Yankees and Yankee Stadium at all, he would attack it from the skies and burn it into a smoldering ruin. This would not be good for baseball.
Billionaire: Tony Stark
Fictional Universe: Marvel, Iron Man
Estimated Net Worth: $9.3 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 5 out of 5 witty one-liners
No one is more brash and open with his life as a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist. Stark even built a gaudy building as a shrine to himself in New York City. His life as a superhero would not be affected as an owner of the Yankees like Bruce Wayne's would because, unlike Wayne, Stark is open about his extra-curricular activities. If anyone would embrace the prestige of owning the Yankees, it would be Tony Stark.
Billionaire: Scrooge McDuck
Fictional Universe: Ducktales
Estimated Net Worth: $44.1 billion (2011)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 2 out of 5 money bins
Scrooge is a smart duck and knows a good investment when he sees it. If his lucky dime tells him to make a move, he does it – and the money pours into his vault. The Yankees are most certainly a great investment (just look at the $8 million Steinbrenner initially paid in the 1970s), but Scrooge is canny enough not to go for just any deal.
Billionaire: C. Montgomery Burns
Fictional Universe: The Simpsons
Estimated Net Worth: $16.8 billion (2006), $1.3 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 3 out of 5 nuclear meltdowns
That's quite the range on Burns' estimated net worth. At $17 billion, a Yankees purchase would seem like a no-brainer for the fan of Three-Finger Brown and Jim Creighton. However, even a man who once hired a team of ringers to play in the crosstown softball game might think twice about making a $3 billion purchase when he's only worth $1.3 billion himself.
Billionaire: Robert Crowley
Fictional Universe: Downton Abbey
Estimated Net Worth: $1.1 billion (2012)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 1 out of 5 period dramas
The Earl of Grantham has very little reason to worry about anything outside of Downton. As an English lord in the 1910s, his focus is and should be on the people he is responsible for and the dangers of World War I. However, Crowley is only holding on to Downton thanks to the fortunes of his American wife. If she showed a softspot for the Yanks, he might have no choice but to expand his horizons to the Bronx.
Billionaire: Adrian Viedt
Fictional Universe: Watchmen, Ozymandias
Estimated Net Worth: $7 billion (2010)
Likelihood of buying the Yankees: 4.5 out of 5 self-engineered apocalypses
The smartest and richest man in the world. Ozymandias shows throughout the Watchmen series that he has few qualms about messing with the general population of humankind if he feels that it serves his mission to better the world. It's easy to believe that, if a club that millions and millions of people worshipped like the Yankees were ever to go on sale on his watch, he would quickly snatch it up in order to use it in one of his plans. Maybe he'd teleport a biologically-engineered, telepathic creature into Yankee Stadium so that its psychic explosion could kill millions of New Yorkers. Or maybe he'd just slowly strip away the generations of aura and nostalgia the team had built up by, for example, replacing the pinstripes with magenta uniforms. Whatever he ended up doing, you can bet that it would be on an immense scale – and would take about 20 pages of dialog to explain.
There are many more billionaires on the Forbes lists, but these were the 15 that stuck out most to me. Am I missing a more likely Yankees buyer from the world of fiction?