Billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller still has an offer on the table to buy the shares of four of the Rooney brothers and remains optimistic a deal will be worked out where he will gain majority stock control of the Steelers' franchise, a source with intimate knowledge of Druckenmiller's situation told the Post-Gazette.
While the four brothers who each hold 16 percent ownership stake in the team have considered at least two offers, and possibly three, to sell their shares to Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, Druckenmiller is eager and ready to proceed with a purchase plan that is "simple and uncomplicated" and would greatly benefit the long-term financial health of the franchise, the source said.
The plan is uncomplicated, the source said, because Druckenmiller, chairman of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Capital Management who has an estimated worth of $3.5 billion, would buy out the four Rooney brothers in a straight cash deal that would be paid immediately and not over any period of time.
The deal would allow the Steelers -- if Druckenmiller became majority stock owner -- to operate without any debt or interest payments and enable the team to spend the necessary money to remain competitive in the NFL, the source said.
The source said the same situation would not exist if Dan Rooney and his son, Art II, the team's vice president, buy the shares. Dan and Art II are trying to attract investors to obtain financing to buy the shares of the other four Rooney brothers -- Tim, Art Jr., Patrick and John.
They would have to assume enough debt on the financing that it could jeopardize their ability to spend money freely on other matters such as free-agent players and contract extensions, especially in a small-market city where ancillary revenue streams are not always available.
The NFL has a debt ceiling of $150 million that is not allowed to be exceeded by a controlling owner.
Nonetheless, Druckenmiller understands he is "not the first option" for the Rooney brothers and "clearly, if everything is in order, they will sell [their shares] to Dan," the source said.
If Druckenmiller gains controlling interest of the franchise, he maintains he wants Dan Rooney and his son to continue to run the team as they do now. Even though he has the same 16 percent interest in the franchise as his brothers, Dan Rooney was appointed by the family to run the team -- an arrangement similar to what Druckenmiller would seek.
"The Steelers have become what they are now because of one person -- Dan Rooney," the source quoted Druckenmiller as saying, and he believes "he is the finest owner in professional sports."
It is not known what amount Druckenmiller has offered to purchase the shares of the four Rooney brothers.
But, despite what appears to be a lengthy delay in the sales process, Druckenmiller thinks everything will go "very, very quickly" when, or if, the Rooney brothers reject their brother's proposal and come back to him, the source said.
Druckenmiller has not commented publicly about his involvement, except for an e-mail he sent to the Post-Gazette July 10 in which he confirmed his interest in purchasing the Steelers' franchise.
First Published August 7, 2008 4:00 AM