Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Pittsburgh financier seeking majority interest in Steelers
A deal could be reached within days to sell a majority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers to the chairman of a Pittsburgh-based investment firm, taking control of the NFL franchise away from the Rooney family.
Former Steelers owner Art Rooney is an icon in Pittsburgh. But family control of the franchise may be in question as Rooney's heirs decide what to do with their shares of the NFL franchise.
The shares would be sold to Stanley Druckenmiller, chairman of Duquesne Capital management, making him principal owner of the team. Two officials familiar with the talks identified the buyer as Druckenmiller and said Monday that the deal could be completed by the end of the week. They declined to be identified because they were not directly involved in negotiations.
Druckenmiller's interest was first reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal, which said a secret study by Goldman Sachs valued the franchise at between $800 million and $1.2 billion. The report came a day after Dan Rooney said he and his son, team president Art Rooney II, were attempting to buy out his four brothers in an effort to retain "substantial ownership of the team."
Each brother owns 16 percent of the team, adding up to 80 percent, with another Pittsburgh family, the McGinleys, owning 20 percent.
Even if the deal with Druckenmiller goes through, it would still need approval by 24 of the league's 32 owners. Dan Rooney is, without question, the most influential and respected member of that group.
During the past 40 years, Rooney has helped resolve labor disputes, promoted racial diversity within the league and helped elect Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell as commissioners.
The impending sale is the result of a feud among members of one of sport's most renowned families and has been simmering about two years.
The 75-year-old Rooney is the oldest of five brothers. Their father, Art, bought the franchise in 1933 for $2,500.
Dan and Art are enshrined in Pro Football's Hall of Fame.
The other four brothers -- Art Jr., Timothy, Patrick and John -- want to drop their interest in the Steelers to concentrate on their race track and other interests, many of which involve the gambling industry. The Rooney family owns race tracks in New York and Florida and has added forms of gaming that are inconsistent with NFL gambling policy.
Goodell has asked Tagliabue to represent the league on Dan Rooney's behalf in talks to reach an agreement on a separation of the gambling interests and restructured ownership if part of the team is sold.
Rooney said in a statement Monday that with Tagliabue's help, he was attempting to put together a financing plan that would buy out his brothers and their families over a period of time.
"For the past two years, the Rooney family has had discussions about a restructuring of the ownership of the Steelers in order to ensure compliance with the NFL ownership policies and the continuation of the Rooney family ownership and operation of the team," the team said in the statement.
"I have spent my entire life devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League," Dan Rooney said in the statement. "I will do everything possible to work out a solution to ensure my father's legacy of keeping the Steelers in the Rooney family and in Pittsburgh for at least another 75 years."
Druckenmiller did not immediately return a call placed to his office by The Associated Press.
Although he lives primarily in New York, he frequently attends Steelers games and is said to want to include Dan and Art Rooney II in his ownership group.