Forward thinking

The death of Wellington Mara and the illness of Giants co-owner Robert Tisch, diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in 2004, are not expected to have a major impact on the ownership structure of one of the NFL's proudest franchises.

Since Wellington Mara's nephew, Tim, sold his 50 percent of the team to Tisch in 1991 for $150 million, a plan for succession has been in place to keep the team in the hands of both families.

According to Forbes Magazine, the Giants are worth $806 million, a value expected to increase exponentially when and if a new stadium is built at the Meadowlands. Tentative plans call for the facility, to be shared by the Giants and Jets, to be ready by 2009.

For most of the last 15 years Mara's eldest son, John, 50, has been in charge of administrative, legal and financial aspects as its executive vice president and chief operating officer.

"John Mara now will continue his father's legacy," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.

Two other brothers, Chris (VP of Player Evaluation) and Frank (Director of Promotions) are involved in the daily operation of the team.

Both of Tisch's sons, Steven and Jonathan, are also involved with the team.

Jonathan, the chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels since 1989, is the team's treasurer. Steven, an Academy Award-winning producer [Forrest Gump], joined the team this summer as a vice president to help John Mara put together the stadium deal with the state of New Jersey.

By all estimation the relationship between the Mara and Tisch brothers is as cordial as that which Robert Tisch shared with Wellington Mara.

It was understood the Maras would handle the football end of the business while the Tischs concentrated more on the financial end of things. Although that line will blur somewhat with Wellington Mara's passing, since his influence on organizational philosophy was so strong, it's expected to remain essentially intact because of the backgrounds of the men involved.

"The relationship between the Mara and Tisch families remains one of the great strengths of the Giants organization, and, together, we look forward to building upon the foundation and heritage that Wellington Mara established for many years to come," Steven Tisch said.

The Mara family also made moves two years ago to protect itself against the burden of federal estate inheritance taxes that could have forced it to sell its share of the team. When former Dolphins owner Joe Robbie died, his family and trustees was forced to sell the franchise to H. Wayne Huizenga in 1994, largely due to difficulties related to inheritance.

A tax specialist told the New York Times last week that it's likely Wellington Mara specified in his will that his 50 percent of the team be passed in trust to his wife, Ann, who would control it until the time of her passing. Under current law, the tax is 47 percent on estates of $1.5 million or more. In 2011, the tax will escalate to 55 percent.

While the Mara family income is almost exclusively generated by football, the Tischs are worth approximately $3 billion, according to Forbes.

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