Reports: Rooney family members considering outside investors

Updated: July 8, 2008, 7:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and his son, team president Art Rooney II, want to buy other family members' shares to assure that one of the NFL's most storied franchises does not leave family control.

[+] EnlargeStatue of Art Rooney
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesFormer 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.
But some members of the family are considering other options outside the Rooney family circle, including Pittsburgh-area billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper reported that Druckenmiller, the chairman of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Capital Management, has expressed interest in acquiring the Steelers, citing unnamed sources who had been briefed on the negotiations.

In a statement Monday, the team said some of Dan Rooney's four brothers want to focus their business efforts on racetracks and other nonfootball interests. The brothers -- Art Jr., Timothy, Patrick and John -- all own an interest in the team, as does another related family, the McGinleys, although it has only a small stake in the 75-year-old franchise.

But the Journal reported that some of the Rooney brothers and third-generation members of the family, concerned that Dan Rooney's buyout proposal undervalued the team and takes on too much debt, secretly obtained an independent analysis of the franchise's value from Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs & Co.

That analysis estimates the value of the Steelers at between $800 million and $1.2 billion, the newspaper reported, citing documents it reviewed.

In September, Forbes Magazine valued the Steelers at $929 million.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that according to a source, the brothers in question are Timothy, Patrick and John Rooney, who are involved with the operation of Empire City at Yonkers Raceway, a harness racing track in Yonkers, N.Y., and the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

While the situation suggests some family disagreement, another source close to the team said that the Rooney family remains close, but that future issues such as inheritance taxes have raised concerns, the Post-Gazette reported.

According to the Journal, Druckenmiller has told Rooney family members he would want Dan Rooney to continue running the team if he were to make a successful ownership bid. Druckenmiller declined comment for the story, the newspaper reported.

Under Dan Rooney's offer to his brothers, according to the report, his family would take on substantial debt and pay $35 million to each brother and the McGinley family for a 5 percent stake in the team. Dan Rooney's family then would buy more equity in the team over the next 10 years.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has asked former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to represent the league in talks to reach an agreement on a separation of the gambling interests and the restructured ownership if part of the team is sold, according to the team's statement.

"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.

The Steelers are one of the NFL's most successful franchises despite not winning any form of championship until their 40th season, a division title in 1972. The five-time Super Bowl champions have sold out all home games for the past 36 years and have one of the league's largest fan bases outside their own region, a national following rivaled by only a handful of NFL teams.

Dan Rooney is the eldest of team founder Art Rooney Sr.'s five sons and a Pro Football Hall of Fame owner who first worked for the team as a ballboy while in grade school.

"I have spent my entire life devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League," said Dan Rooney, one of the most influential owners in NFL history. "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."

Art Rooney Jr., Dan's brother, was the Steelers' scouting director when the team had some of the best draft classes in NFL history in the 1970s, leading to a run of four Super Bowl championships in six seasons.

Dan and Art Jr. had a falling out in the late 1980s, with Art Jr. leaving the football side of the business. Art Jr. has since been involved in the Rooneys' real estate holdings, though he recently wrote a book focusing on his work for the Steelers.

Their father, Art Rooney Sr., was heavily involved in gambling and, according to legend, bought the Steelers in 1933 with $2,500 in racetrack winnings. But the NFL now frowns on any ownership association with gambling.

The Rooney family owns racetracks in New York and Florida and has added forms of gaming that are inconsistent with NFL gambling policy.

An NFL spokesman said the league has not set a deadline for resolution of the Steelers' ownership situation, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Art Rooney II says the discussions should have no effect on the team or its fans. The Steelers, who won the AFC North with a 10-6 record last season, open training camp July 27.

"There is no reason to believe that the current internal discussions will have any impact on our fans or on our team this season or in the seasons to come," Art Rooney II said.

The Rooney family has owned the team since its inception, except for a brief period in 1941 when Art Rooney Sr. sold the team to Alexis Thompson and bought into the Philadelphia Eagles. Rooney regained control of his hometown Steelers in less than a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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