Steelers’ Rooney trying to keep team in family



In this Feb. 5, 2006 file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after their Super Bowl XL football win over the Seattle Seahawks in Detroit. The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney faces an uphill climb in trying to acquire majority control of one of pro sports’ best-known franchises now that his four brothers have hired an investment firm to field offers for their shares of the club.

In a curious twist, Art Rooney Jr., a Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee for his drafting skills who was fired by Dan Rooney 21 years ago, may decide if the team stays in the Rooney family’s control.

Dan Rooney, widely viewed as the NFL’s most influential owner, has spent two years in an unsuccessful attempt to buy out his four younger brothers’ stakes in the five-time Super Bowl championship franchise. Each brother owns 16 percent, or a total of 80 percent.

The other 20 percent is owned by the family of the late Barney McGinley, who helped Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. reacquire the Steelers in the 1940s after Rooney sold the team for a brief time. The McGinleys’ share is not believed to be for sale.

To prevent an outside investor – possibly investment billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, a longtime Steelers fan – from obtaining a majority stake, Dan Rooney needs to persuade at least one brother to sell to him.

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That would give him 32 percent of the team, enough to satisfy the NFL’s requirement that the primary owner have at least a 30 percent share. If the McGinleys don’t sell, no other investor could own more than 48 percent.

Art Jr., who helps run the Rooneys’ real estate holdings, is the only other Rooney brother who lives in Pittsburgh. He said his three out-of-town brothers are loyal Steelers supporters who dislike being part of any possible disruption of the Rooney family’s ownership.

“We bleed black and gold,” Art Rooney Jr. said at a signing for his new book about Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. and the family. “What bothers me is I hear people say the out-of-towners (the Rooneys who don’t live in Pittsburgh) don’t love the Steelers. They love the Steelers.”

Still, Art Jr. finds it ironic he may decide if the Rooney family keeps the Steelers, giving his falling out with Dan.

Art Jr., the only other Rooney brother who worked full time for the team, was so skilled as a director of scouting for the team, that his drafts in the late 1960s and early 1970s were largely responsible for the Steelers winning four Super Bowls in six years.

His 1974 draft alone produced Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster and led to Art Jr. being nominated for the Hall of Fame.