Billionaire Druckenmiller withdraws offer to buy majority share of Steelers

Updated: September 19, 2008, 1:02 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- A billionaire suitor withdrew his offer to buy a majority stake of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, saying the Rooney family needs more time to consider its options about the future ownership of the team.

Stanley Druckenmiller issued a statement Thursday night saying he "removed himself from the process."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Druckenmiller withdrew after he was informed by four of the five Rooney brothers that his offer for their shares, believed to be in the neighborhood of $550 million, would not be accepted.

"Of course I'm disappointed," Druckenmiller told the Post-Gazette. "But those are their shares and they have every right to seek a higher price for them."

Members of the Rooney family approached Druckenmiller seven months ago about buying their shares of the team to help resolve estate planning and NFL ownership matters, Druckenmiller said. Druckenmiller is the chairman of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Capital Management and a Steelers season-ticket holder.

At least three of the five Rooney brothers -- sons of team founder Art Rooney Sr. -- want to sell their equal shares. Managing partner Dan Rooney, who has run the team since the early 1970s, also owns only 16 percent himself.

Druckenmiller said he made it clear throughout the discussions that if the family could resolve its problems internally, he would step away. He also said that if his bid succeeded, he would ask Dan Rooney and his son, Art Rooney II, to stay on as managing owner and team president, respectively, according to the Post-Gazette.

"Based on recent developments, it has become clear that the Rooneys need substantial additional time to assess their options," Druckenmiller said in a statement. "I do not wish to complicate these efforts, and I also do not want the lingering uncertainty about my possible involvement to become a distraction to my business and my family."

Earlier Thursday, Art Rooney Jr. -- one of the four brothers seeking a sale -- said he expected a deal to sell the shares will be done soon.

"My feeling on that is, if you want to do something right, you don't want to do it on a timeline," he said. "Although these things do stretch on, I thought we'd have some kind of understanding by the preseason, and now we're coming up on the third game of the season and you don't want it to drag out."

Rooney did not return messages seeking comment on Druckenmiller's withdrawal.

At least three of the five Rooney brothers want to sell their equal shares in the team partly to avoid costly future inheritance taxes for their children and grandchildren. The McGinley family, cousins to the Rooneys, owns the other 20 percent and is reportedly not interested in selling shares.

Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II are attempting to buy enough shares to be the primary owners. But their two previous offers are believed to be for less money than the other four Rooney brothers could sell for on the open market.

But in a meeting with the Rooney family last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly indicated that the league strongly favors the family retaining control of the franchise. A sale would require the support of 24 of the NFL's 32 owners.

The NFL has rules that restrict owners' involvement in gambling enterprises, and requires that one person own at least 30 percent of a team. Some of the brothers own shares of racetracks that now offer casino gaming.

Dan Rooney and the Steelers have repeatedly refused comment on the negotiations.

The four brothers have hired the investment firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to calculate the value of their shares, while Dan Rooney has turned to Morgan Stanley for guidance in the matter. Goldman Sachs estimates that one of the NFL's most successful franchises could be worth as much as $1.2 billion. Forbes earlier this month estimated the team's value at just over $1 billion.

Art Rooney Jr. said his brothers are consulting their financial advisers on Thursday and again Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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