Many Facets To Ownership Issue.
Many facets to ownership issue
Bob Labriola, a Pittsburgh native, has been editor of Steelers Digest since its inception in 1988. This page offers him an opportunity to provide additional insights into the Steelers, the NFL and the events that are making news.
In the NFL at least, the fireworks didn’t come until after the Fourth of July.
At a time of the year when most NFL team offices are deserted, when players, coaches and staff are taking the last of their vacations in the runup to training camp, two events
came to light that sent shock waves through the industry. Somebody owning the Pittsburgh Steelers other than a Rooney. Brett Favre in a jersey other than the Green Bay Packers.
The two events are totally unrelated in every way except for one: both were big news.
Pittsburgh, naturally, was the hub of the Steelers story, and that will be the subject of this essay. The story broke on Monday, July 7 when the team released a statement on its website.
“For the past two years the Rooney family has had discussions about a restructuring of the family’s ownership of the Steelers in order to ensure compliance with NFL ownership
policies and the continuation of Rooney family ownership and operation of the team,” is how the statement began, and it also included these words from Dan Rooney.
“I have spent my entire life devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League. 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.”
The Steelers were founded in 1933 by Art Rooney Sr., whose five sons inherited equal shares in the team when he died in 1988. That meant a 16 percent ownership stake
for each of the five sons — Dan, Art Jr., Tim, John and Pat — with the other 20 percent owned by Jack McGinley Sr. and his sister, Rita McGinley.
That arrangement maintained the stability of the franchise, but some two decades later a set of circumstances all came together to set in motion the events that just recently
The NFL has a rule that in a family ownership situation, one individual must own at least 20 percent of the team, with one family having to own a minimum of 30 percent; the
league also has regulations about owners being involved in casino gambling, and once slot machines and poker tables were added to the Rooney family’s race tracks in
Yonkers, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla., those facilities no longer were in compliance; and each of the brothers is at an age when estate matters become issues that require
Quickly, Stanley Druckenmiller’s name surfaced as an interested party. Druckenmiller, 55, owns Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Capital Management LLC and lives in New York, where as a hedge fund manager he has made a reported fortune of $3.5 billion on Wall Street.
Various reports indicated that Druckenmiller was interested in purchasing shares of the team from Dan Rooney’s four brothers and also possibly from the McGinley family, and media speculation was rampant as to how much he wanted to buy, how the team would be managed if such a sale took place, and when the deal would be done. The NFL had placed no deadline on the restructuring of the team’s ownership, and so the predictions
that Druckenmiller would own a controlling share of the Steelers franchise in a matter of days proved false.
During those early days of media coverage, a portrait of Druckenmiller emerged as a face-painting, die-hard Steelers fan who preferred to sit in the stands than in the luxury suite he certainly could afford. A long-time season-ticket holder who rarely misses a game and hosts a tailgate party at Heinz Field, Druckenmiller was said to become “morose”
after the Steelers lost. Those early glimpses of Druckenmiller also included his promise to keep the team in Pittsburgh and his desire to continue to have Dan Rooney and current Steelers president Art Rooney II run the team on a day-today basis.
It seemed incongruous that a selfmade billionaire reportedly willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to buy controlling interest in an NFL franchise would then sit idly by while it was run by others, and a recent report on Bloomberg.com revealed that Druckenmiller had other ideas.
“Stanley Druckenmiller would insist on controlling the finances of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” wrote Curtis Eichelberger. “Druckenmiller, who founded his firm in Pittsburgh and is a Steelers fan, would allow (Dan) Rooney to attend National Football League meetings, vote on league issues such as rules changes and manage the club, while maintaining veto power.”
The NFL is sensitive to the Rooney ownership issues, it wants Dan and Art II to continue to run the franchise, and it doesn’t want the team to incur more than a manageable
debt. Any sale of the Steelers would be subject to approval of 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners.
Talks continue, and the optimistic view of the situation would be one where the Rooneys maintain controlling interest in the team and that Dan and Art II continue to run it, because it was Dan Rooney who hired Chuck Noll and set the course for the success on the field, and it was Art Rooney II who was behind the deal to build Heinz Field, which
precipitated the significant increase in the value of the franchise.
It’s not going to be simple to come up with a deal allowing all of that, but there is a genuine interest among the brothers to preserve their father’s legacy of Rooney family
control of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Considering the fact it was under Rooney control that the Steelers became a winner on the field and as a business, it would be a shame if that was not allowed to continue.