NEW YORK (AP) — George Steinbrenner’s 35-year reign as boss of the New York Yankees ended Thursday when he passed control of baseball’s most famous team to his youngest son, Hal.

The elder Steinbrenner has gradually withdrawn from the Yankees’ day-to-day operations in recent years, and brothers Hal and Hank were appointed co-chairmen in April.

“I realize it’s a great responsibility,” said Hal Steinbrenner, who turns 40 on Dec. 3. “My dad is, needless to say, a tough act to follow.”

George Steinbrenner headed a group that bought the club in January 1973. He became one of the most high-profile owners in all of sports, dominating the back pages of New York’s tabloids as he spent lavishly on players and changed managers 20 times during his first 23 years as owner.

The Yankees regained their former glory under his ownership, winning six World Series titles and 10 American League pennants from 1976-2003. They also have transformed themselves into a billion-dollar business that owns a cable television network and food concession company. But the 78-year-old has been in declining health following fainting spells that required hospitalization in December 2003 and October 2006.

His speech in public has been halting and weak since the second fall, and he has needed assistance when walking. He delivered the balls for the ceremonial first pitches from a golf cart at July’s All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, then stayed home in Florida to watch the 85-year-old park’s final game on television.

Baseball owners unanimously approved the change in control during a meeting Thursday.

“He’s been slowing down the last couple years,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “Really, for the last two years I have been intimately involved with all aspects and all departments of the company. It’s what I’ve been doing day-to-day. My duties aren’t really going to change and my workload isn’t going to change much. So, I mean, it’s as much a procedural thing within the family, I think, as anything at this point.”

While Hank, 51, has spoken out publicly far more than his brother in the past year, Hal was at Yankee Stadium far more often than his brother this season. Hal is responsible for financial operations of the club, and Hank oversees general manager Brian Cashman and the baseball operations.

Major League Baseball said George Steinbrenner requested the change in control be made. George Steinbrenner retains his title as the team’s chairman.

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