Swindal may have lost chance to take over Yankees

Updated: March 29, 2007, 9:17 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TAMPA, Fla. -- George Steinbrenner's daughter filed divorce papers this week against her husband, Steve Swindal, a move that appears to end his chance to take over as head of the New York Yankees.

Jennifer Swindal filed the papers Tuesday in Hillsborough County Circuit Court's family law department, Yankees spokesman Howard Rubenstein said Wednesday. Rubenstein said the papers cited "irreconcilable differences."

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"Steve and Jenny Swindal announced today that they are amicably ending their marriage of 23 years," Rubenstein said in a statement. "Although their marriage is dissolving, they remain friends and maintain a strong mutual respect. They are devoted to their two children and will make them their shared focus."

The divorce papers also caused concern about Swindal's group bid to operate thoroughbred racing in New York, which relies heavily on the Yankees' championship cache.

"I'm not commenting on anything," Swindal said Thursday.

In Tuesday's divorce filing, Jennifer Swindal asks to keep the couple's $2.3 million home in Tampa's upscale Davis Island neighborhood. She asked for detailed records of her husband's finances but requested her own parts of the Steinbrenner empire "be protected and set aside."

In June 2005, Steinbrenner said Swindal eventually would succeed him as head of the Yankees. Swindal currently is a Yankees general partner and chairman of Yankee Global Enterprises LLC. The New York Times, citing a source with direct knowledge of the situation, reported on Wednesday that Steinbrenner now has no intention of promoting Swindal, but removing him from the team altogether could be complicated since he is a partial owner of the club.

"I'm the boss," Steinbrenner said in a statement issued by Rubenstein. "I continue to be the boss. I have no intention of retiring, and my family runs the Yankees with me."

In November, a New York state committee charged with assessing franchise proposals recommended the Swindal-headed Excelsior Racing Associates, which is also led by casino developer Richard Fields. But Gov. Eliot Spitzer has said he will review all proposals before a franchise is awarded.

There was no immediate comment Thursday from Spitzer on whether Excelsior's status has changed.

The bidders will present their proposals in public hearings on April 10 and April 11.

Swindal was arrested by St. Petersburg police at about 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 15 and charged with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor.

Swindal said the week following the arrest he felt embarrassed, and when asked whether his status with the team would change, Swindal responded: "Hopefully, not." Asked whether he still viewed himself as Steinbrenner's successor, Swindal replied: "I can't answer that other than it would be speculation." Asked whether Steinbrenner supported him, Swindal said: "He's been a great father-in-law and supportive. He supports me. I don't feel anything but a guy who is looking out after me and supports me."

Steinbrenner, who has hardly spoken publicly during spring training, didn't reply to questions as he walked past reporters before Wednesday night's exhibition game against Houston.

Swindal pleaded not guilty March 15, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 5 at South County Traffic Court in St. Petersburg.

Swindal, who is 52, was weaving and driving 61 mph in a 35 mph zone when he was pulled over, police spokesman Bill Proffitt said shortly after the arrest.

Steinbrenner has four children. Son Harold Steinbrenner is executive vice president and treasurer of Yankee Global Enterprises LLC and Hank Steinbrenner is a senior vice president of the team. Felix Lopez, married to daughter Jessica Steinbrenner, is a team senior vice president.

Jessica Steinbrenner, along with Lopez, were among a group of people with Steinbrenner in the Legends Field dining room.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.