Sitting Down With New York Yankees President Randy Levine
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
Lots to talk about given the Yankees offseason. Yankees president Randy Levine stopped by "Power Lunch" today.
Darren: When you signed all these free agents, the initial reaction was, how can you possibly afford this? That's even with the new stadium coming in. Explain to me how the math works.
Levine: At the end of the 2008 season, we had a lot of money coming off our payroll -- actually close to $90 million in player contracts that had been expiring or will not be renewed. Similarly, over the next several years, we also have many, many contracts that are going to expire or some of them won't be renewed. The Steinbrenner family has always had the commitment to reinvest in this franchise and that's exactly what we decided here to do.
Darren: You're going to be at least, as of now, $20 million less (on payroll) than last year.
Levine: That's where we are today. I think it will go up this year, but our payroll this year in 2009 will be less than it was last year and we're planning for the future. We're reinvesting to try to give all Yankees fans and the people a World Series. That's what this organization is about.
Darren: There's always been a lot of scrutiny on what the Yankees do. There was a controversy on the Mets and Yankees giving a free luxury box to the city, even though it is done everywhere. Today, it became clear the city is giving up that box with money going back into the city's coffers. What's your take on this?
Levine: My take is that's fine. I think that's great. I think Mayor Bloomberg, when he first entered into this agreement, didn't believe that he was going to be mayor with the term limits law that changed. And as a result, unlike every other stadium in the country, he has asked us to sell it. We will sell it. We've guaranteed at least $100,000. We believe there will be a lot more, we'll give it to the city and the city can use it for whatever they think is appropriate.
Darren: A lot of talk as well about the tax-exempt bonds that the Yankees and Mets have asked for. The Yankees, in total, asking for more than $1 billion worth of bonds. You used to work in the Mayor's office. How does this make sense to the taxpayer?
Levine: We'll, I'd like to make this very clear. The way this stadium is being constructed and financed, every single penny, every single penny, is going to be paid for by the New York Yankees. There are no taxpayer funds that are being used to fund this stadium, which is different from 99.9 percent of stadiums all over the world. No taxpayer money will be used to fund this stadium. The Yankees are funding the entire bill of the construction and, unlike today, the maintenance and operation of the stadium. The Yankees are on the hook, there's no liability for the city or any governmental agency. So this is a $1.3 billion investment in the poorest congressional district in the country. It's the largest investment in the Bronx and, in these hard times, this has generated over 6,000 construction jobs by moving us across the street from the old Yankee Stadium to the new Yankee Stadium, we're going to create approximately 1,000 new jobs. So this is a good thing.
Darren: Really quickly, are you guys guaranteeing a 2009 World Series championship?
Levine: We're not guaranteeing it, but we're doing everything we can to try to reach that goal. It has been too long.
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