Congratulations to NBC Chicago‘s Peggy Kusinski for asking new Bears Chairman George McCaskey the first interesting question since he took over:
“Does he ever see the McCaskeys no longer being majority shareholders of the Chicago Bears?
“‘No,’ he replied.
“The goal is to hang on to the team and pass it on to the fourth generation. And that poses its own problem. There are 11 McCaskey children now owning the Bears, but there are nearly two dozen grandchildren to groom.
“‘The numbers present a challenge just by themselves. We’ll be up for it. The goal is to hold onto the team for the second coming,’ he said.”
No surprise there, right? Not so fast, my friend.
Its hard for media members to top toe around this because no one really wants to suggest such a morbid topic but what happens to the Bears after current majority owner Virginia McCaskey dies is a serious issue for the family. The franchise is currently valued at at least $800 million and the estate tax is 55% plus a 5% surcharge. That’s a lot of cash.
So when George McCaskey talks about the numbers presenting a challenge, he’s not just talking about children and grandchildren. He’s thinking about the financial realities behind just keeping the franchise within the family’s control.
[EDIT – It turns out I posted this too quickly. This 2006 ESPN article by Darren Rovell explains how the Bears will get around the estate tax issue:
“Unlike most of the rest of us who are plowing through the IRS code and crunching our own tax numbers right now, today’s franchise owners can afford to make themselves privy to the most sophisticated techniques in existence that might lighten the tax burden for the next generation in their families.
Take the Chicago Bears as an example. George Halas bought the team in 1920 for $100; and when he died in 1983, he transferred ownership to Virginia McCaskey, his daughter. McCaskey, who is now in her 80’s, reportedly has a controlling interest with an 80 percent share in the club. But technically, those shares were at some point gifted to her 11 children; so that when she passes away, there will be a minimal transference and therefore few estate taxes related to the club. Bears spokesman Roger Hacker said the percentage owned by each of the children is not public information and would not be released, but it appears that we can expect the McCaskeys to own the Bears for a while longer, at least.”]