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49ers' return to Super Bowl still a family affair

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown (25) stretches with the rest of his team before practice for the Super Bowl in New Orleans, Janu
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown (25) stretches with the rest of his team before practice for the Super Bowl in New Orleans, Janu

(Reuters) - It may be hard to view a National Football League team valued at over $1 billion as a mom-and-pop operation, but the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers have remained very much a family business.

Jed York is the 49ers' chief executive and principal owner, having been passed the torch from father John York and his wife Denise DeBartolo York in 2008 after Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was forced to hand over control of the franchise to his sister in 2000 when he became involved in a messy corruption case.

"It's not just me; it's the entire family," Jed York told the Youngstown Vindicator shortly after the 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship game to claim the George Halas Trophy and a Super Bowl berth. "It's my uncle being here, being the honorary captain, giving the Halas Trophy to my mom.

"Having our whole family, my son being here, that's what the 49ers are about. Whether it's the DeBartolo family, the York family, the extended 49er family, that's what this team's about."

When Jed York stepped into the Niners hot seat, John and Denise handed over control of the team to the then 27-year-old like most parents might turn over the keys to the family car.

During Eddie DeBartolo's watch, which ran from 1977 to 2000, the 49ers were a model NFL franchise, the benchmark for success with triumphs in all five Super Bowl appearances.

The York's reign was not nearly as successful, however, as the once-proud franchise stumbled through six straight losing seasons from 2003-3008.

But under Jed York, who has been praised for having many of the same qualities as his uncle and godfather, 49ers fans are recalling the team's glory years as San Francisco returns to the Super Bowl on Sunday for the first time since 1995.

"Tremendously talented, special family," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters. "There's a lot of finger prints on the success of this team.

"A lot of credit goes to the York family."

Apart from York's football ownership lineage there is little on his resume to suggest he would be the one to restore the franchise to its past glory.

Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, York was captain of his high school baseball team and later attended the University of Notre Dame, where he earned degrees in finance and history.

After graduating he worked as a financial analyst in New York handling private wealth management, hedge funds risk analysis.

But in just four years, he has put his unmistakable stamp on the franchise by positioning the 49ers for success on and off the field.

"We've come full circle ... and the dynasty will prevail," said Denise DeBartolo York.

On the field, York made two shrewd moves, promoting Trent Baalke to general manager and hiring Jim Harbaugh as head coach. In Harbaugh's two seasons in charge, the Niners have reached two NFC finals and one Super Bowl.

While a Super Bowl victory on Sunday would be celebrated across the Bay Area, York's greatest achievement has been securing an $850 million loan so the franchise can push ahead with plans to construct a new state-of-art stadium for his team in Santa Clara.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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