Steelers' ownership talks nearing decision

Rooney brothers weighing 2 offers

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The Steelers could take a first major step in solving their ownership issue by the end of this week as four Rooney brothers try to choose between two "final" offers for their shares in the franchise.

While they've had both offers for months, one from their brother Dan Rooney and his son Art Rooney II, and the other from billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, details of both took some time to be worked out with the brothers' investment bankers, Goldman Sachs.

"Now we have all the information,'' one family member told the Post-Gazette. "I'm not saying anything's consummated. Nothing's been consummated."

A decision is expected soon, however, by Dan Rooney's four younger brothers: Art Jr., Tim, Pat and John. Combined, they own 64 percent of the team. Dan Rooney owns 16 percent and the other 20 percent is divided among Pittsburgh's McGinley family, which has not been involved in negotiations for their shares.

"It's a big week,'' one Rooney family member said.

Mr. Druckenmiller gave the four brothers a Friday deadline to receive a decision from them. Another family member said he felt the deadline helped the process along when it was issued about six weeks ago. It has been difficult to determine, however, whether it's a hard deadline or if Mr. Druckenmiller would be willing to give the Rooneys more time.

Even when a deal is accepted by the brothers, the NFL must approve any ownership change and commissioner Roger Goodell has said league owners prefer the Rooneys remain in control of the Steelers.

Art Rooney Jr. has said he thought the process of picking an offer would have ended before the Steelers began playing football in the regular season.

"Now, three games could come and go before it happens," a family member said.

Mr. Druckenmiller's offer is an immediate cash payment for the shares of the four brothers, and he has made it clear to them he wants majority control of the team and has no interest in a minority stake. Dan Rooney's offer to his brothers involves payments spread out over a number of years.

Neither offer has changed. Dan Rooney and his son have made two offers and plan no more. They showed a draft of their first offer to the brothers, then made the offer formally, so at one point some mistakenly thought they were two separate offers. When the brothers balked at that offer, Dan and Art II came up with another and have stuck with that for months.

Mr. Druckenmiller, the chairman of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Capital Management, made his offer to the four brothers nine months ago and nothing has changed in it. Sources have told the Post-Gazette that if Mr. Druckenmiller does get control, he wants Dan Rooney to run the team with a great deal of authority.

Possibly adding to the haste in closing any deal on either side were the shockwaves coming from the nation's banking industry and stock market. On Monday, investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and brokerage firm Merrill Lynch was taken over by Bank of America for $50 billion. On Monday, the stock market plunged more than 500 points.

Under those financial circumstances, it's impractical that either offer would be raised.

The Steelers' worth has been estimated at between $800 million and $1.2 billion. While neither side has publicly disclosed its offer, a median price of $1 billion would mean that a buyout of the four brothers could be around $640 million for their 64 percent ownership.

Ed Bouchette can be reached at . Gerry Dulac can be reached at .


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