George Steinbrenner, who over the years grew accustomed to getting his way, settled for his third choice as successor yesterday when limited partner and theater producer Robert Nederlander was named to replace Steinbrenner as managing general partner of baseball's New York Yankees.

At a meeting in Cleveland with Steinbrenner and the Yankees' other 17 limited partners, Nederlander received approval from the team's ownership group and will assume Steinbrenner's duties if his nomination is ratified by owners of the other major league teams.

"I have great confidence in Robert," Steinbrenner said. "He comes from a family that's been associated with mine for 25 years in the show business end. As far as I'm concerned, I couldn't have got a better man."

Steinbrenner originally wanted son Hank as his replacement, but the younger Steinbrenner, as had been reported several times in the past few days, was not interested in succeeding his high-profile father.

When Hank Steinbrenner, 33, resisted, the veteran owner turned to Leonard Kleinman, current Yankees executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Kleinman, though, was blocked from accepting the nomination by Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, who has scheduled a Sept. 6 hearing on the conduct of Kleinman concerning his possible involvement with former gambler Howard Spira.

His son "is his own man," said George Steinbrenner, whose $40,000 payment to Spira prompted Vincent to order him to resign as general partner.

"He didn't feel he even was interested. My son was the first choice."

It remains unclear who will be running the franchise beginning Monday, the deadline for Steinbrenner to relinquish day-to-day control of the Yankees under his July 30 agreement with Vincent.

Nederlander, 57, can't officially replace Steinbrenner until he receives approval from 10 of the other 13 American League club owners and a majority of the 12 National League owners, but it appears he also will serve as interim successor pending endorsement from the owners -- unless Steinbrenner designates someone else to temporarily represent the Yankees. The Associated Press reported that the partners' vote was unanimous.

"I'm not especially familiar with {Nederlander}," Deputy Baseball Commissioner Steve Greenberg said yesterday from his office in New York. "I've spoken with {Chicago White Sox Chairman} Jerry Reinsdorf, and the ownership committee intends to begin the process as soon as possible.

"It will probably take the ownership committee more than four days {to approve or deny Nederlander}. My assumption is that it will not happen by Monday."

Reinsdorf, chairman of the committee, said in a statement: "The ownership committee will treat this as if the Yankees were sold. We will go through the normal procedure and try to find out if this is a person who can run a ballclub, has the intergrity {and} ability to be a good partner in baseball."

Nederlander, who has economics and law degrees from the University of Michigan and was one of the university's regents for 16 years, is president of the Nederlander Organization, which presented Broadway smashes "Annie," "Nicholas Nickleby" and "La Cage aux Folles." Steinbrenner had invested in several Nederlander properties, including the hit "Applause" and the flop "Legs Diamond."

The organization owns 30 theaters in the United States and Britain, 11 on Broadway. Nederlander's close-knit family, of which brothers James and Harry also are Yankees limited partners, has been in the theater-owning business since 1912. The Nederlanders own 6 percent of the Yankees' stock.

"The Nederlander family and the Steinbrenner family have been dear friends for 25 years," Nederlander said. "We continue to and will value our longstanding friendship."

"We all were very pleased that Bob was elected," limited partner Michael Friedman said when reached yesterday at Cleveland-based Manchester Steel Inc., of which he is president. "We assume that there won't be any problems."

For Kleinman, however, trouble might just be starting. Hopeful of succeeding Steinbrenner in a position Kleinman called "the most prestigious job in baseball," he now faces a hearing with Vincent, the aftermath of the commissioner's investigation of Steinbrenner.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Spira, in previous interviews, said Kleinman arranged a money-market account for him at a bank in the Bronx.

"There's no question in my mind that the commissioner's only intent in going forward with the hearing is to destroy my relationship with the Yankees," Kleinman told the Associated Press after yesterday's meeting.

In St. Louis before Cincinnati played the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, Vincent said: "On Monday, there will be no more involvement of Mr. Steinbrenner with the operations of the Yankees. Everything else is talk. . . .

"I assume everything will be fine, but I don't know anything about {Nederlander}."

Jan. 9, 1903: Frank Ferrell and Bill Devery purchase the Baltimore franchise of the American League for $18,000 and move the team to New York.

Jan. 11, 1915: Col. Jacob Ruppert and Col. Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston purchase the Yankees for $460,000.

May 21, 1922: Ruppert buys out Huston for $1.5 million.

Jan. 13, 1939: Ruppert dies.

Jan. 25, 1945: Dan Topping, Del Webb and Larry MacPhail purchase the Yankees for $2.8 million.

Nov. 2, 1964: CBS purchases 80 percent of the club for $11.2 million and later buys the remaining 20 percent.

Jan. 3, 1973: A limited partnership, headed by George Steinbrenner as managing general partner, purchases the Yankees from CBS for $10 million.

Aug. 15, 1990: Robert E. Nederlander is elected to succeed Steinbrenner as managing general partner.