Billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller acknowledged yesterday that he is interested in purchasing the Steelers and pledged that "any resolution involving me will guarantee the team remains in Pittsburgh."
"I am more than aware how uniquely important the Steelers are to the city," he said in a short statement.
The chairman of Duquesne Capital Management has talked to both sides of the Rooney family -- the four brothers who hired Wall Street investment bank Goldman, Sachs & Co. to evaluate offers for their shares, and the fifth brother, Dan, who wants to buy out his four brothers and become majority owner of the Steelers. At the same time, Dan and his son Art II are also trying to line up other investors to buy all, or even a portion, of the shares held by Art Jr., Tim, Pat and John.
"My primary objective," Mr. Druckenmiller said, "is to do what is in the best interests of the Pittsburgh Steeler franchise, the fans, the city of Pittsburgh, the Rooney and McGinley families and the National Football League." The Rooneys control 80 percent and the McGinleys control the other 20 percent.
The Rooney family, he said, "is working through a number of complicated issues regarding the ownership structure ... I have been involved in these discussions and am interested in participating in a transaction that builds on the legacy of this great franchise and one that makes economic sense to everyone involved."
The comments are the first from Mr. Druckenmiller since his name surfaced earlier this week as a potential buyer. In breaking his silence, he expressed an "intent to keep my public comments to a minimum as the process moves forward."
He added: "One can only be in awe of the way this franchise has been operated for many decades and we are all in debt to Dan Rooney and the rest of the family for what that has meant to the city. Based on all the discussions in which I have been involved, it is the desire of the entire family to attain a result which provides similar success in the decades ahead.
"I hope to be involved in achieving that objective."
Mr. Druckenmiller, worth an estimated $3.5 billion, is not the only well-heeled investor with an interest in the Steelers. A prominent out-of-town family has also contacted the Rooneys, said a source close to the Rooney family. This family is "huge" and "bigger than anybody in Pittsburgh," according to the source, and like Mr. Druckenmiller has the wherewithal to pull off a deal without participation from other investors.
Others who have contacted the family are people from Pittsburgh and around the country who can contribute tens of millions apiece, this source said.
Another source with knowledge of the negotiations said that the four brothers are dealing only with Mr. Druckenmiller. He said the brothers have been concerned for some time that the dividends paid to the shareholders -- the brothers and the McGinley family -- have been decreasing, though the brothers were led to believe that the proceeds would improve once the team moved to Heinz Field. That has not happened, however, in large part because of increasing player costs.
Dan Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1752.