Bittersweet moment for Steelers' Rooney brothers

With the restructuring of team's ownership on track for March closing, the brothers reflect on final Super Bowl

The photo, taken moments after Super Bowl XLIII ended, shows four Rooney brothers posing on the confetti-covered field in Tampa, Fla., after the Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals.

Six rings all around for Pat, John, Tim and Art Rooney Jr., who collectively own 64 percent of the team their father founded.

There is only one thing missing from that photo: smiles.

"It was a great way for the end, as my dad left the team," Art Rooney Jr. said, "with all of us being on the field and Dan at the podium taking the Super Bowl trophy."

The four brothers were happy in that photo, Art insists, but sad at the same time, which is probably why none is smiling.

"We realized -- all four of us -- that it was the end as dad left it to us. Nobody talked about it, though. It's a nice picture, although with no smiles. We still had our game faces on."

Two of those four Rooneys will sell all of their stock in the team when the closing takes place, and the other two will sell about half of what they have owned since their father, Art Sr., died in 1988.

That closing is on schedule to occur by the end of March, sources on both sides told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That is the timetable their brother, Dan Rooney, and his son, Art II, gave the National Football League when league owners unanimously approved the restructuring of the franchise in December. No complications developed nor are any expected before the deal closes, although they are working on minor details.

Brothers John and Art Rooney Jr. will maintain about half of their previous 16 percent ownership stake each. Brothers Pat and Tim Rooney will sell all of their 16 percent each and remain in the racing and casino businesses.

A requirement by the NFL that the Rooneys either divest themselves of their interest in the casinos or the team prompted the restructuring. Also, the league requires that each team have a partner who owns at least 30 percent. In the restructuring of the Steelers, the league has approved a joint 30 percent ownership by Dan and his son.

As part of the new ownership, at least three new major partners are buying into the team at unspecified amounts. They are Thomas Tull, a film producer based in Los Angeles; James Haslam III, president of Pilot Travel Centers; and the Paul family of Pittsburgh. Other minor investors also might surface.

J.B. Smith, a venture capitalist from Detroit who announced early this month that he was talking to the Rooneys about becoming a fourth major investor, is not part of the deal. Sources say there never were negotiations between him and the Rooneys.

The McGinley family of Pittsburgh, which has owned 20 percent of the team, also is selling some of its shares in the restructuring.

The photo of four Rooney brothers on the field after winning their sixth Super Bowl not only will be the last under those circumstances, it was the first. Art Rooney Jr. said they never went onto the field after the previous five Super Bowl victories.

"We were lucky to get into the inner circle after the game, but it worked out well," he said. "It was bittersweet, but what a way to say goodbye!"

Ed Bouchette can be reached at . First Published February 23, 2009 5:00 AM


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