Rooneys meet with Goodell again about sale

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The five Rooney brothers venture to New York's Park Avenue this morning to meet with the NFL commissioner for the second time in less than a year, and most of them aren't quite sure why.

They know it concerns the Steelers' ownership issue they have been trying to resolve for the past two years, but they're not quite certain what commissioner Roger Goodell wants to say to them this morning.

One family source ventured a guess that Goodell might try to convince four brothers to sell their combined 64 percent interest in the team to eldest brother Dan, his son Art II and minority investors they have assembled through investment banker Morgan Stanley. The other four brothers -- Art Jr., Tim and twins Pat and John -- have received a separate offer for their shares from billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller. At least one of those brothers asked Druckenmiller, a lifelong Steelers fan, to make a bid.

Art Rooney Jr. has said that for weeks the separate offers were in the hands of the two sides' investment bankers -- the four brothers have retained Goldman Sachs -- and that the process has rivaled "watching paint dry."

That could change this morning, and the family source who suggested Goodell might try to pressure the four brothers to take the offer from Dan Rooney and his son may be on to something.

A league source told the Post-Gazette not to forget that whoever buys the Steelers must be approved by three-fourths of the 32 NFL owners in a vote; it would take only nine votes to scuttle a bid by someone trying to buy the team. He indicated that most owners wanted Dan Rooney to remain in control and might not look kindly on an outsider taking over.

This is a rare ownership issue in the NFL. Usually, when an owner wants to sell, the sale is approved, although there have been occasions when prospective owners were turned down by other NFL owners. This case, however, involves a family that possibly could be split about its intentions, and the team is run by chairman Dan Rooney and president Art Rooney II who want to maintain control of the franchise.

Add in the fact that the Rooneys have owned majority interest in the Steelers since their father Art Sr. paid the NFL a $2,500 fee for the new Pittsburgh charter in 1933 and the resolution of ownership in the franchise carries highly emotional issues as well as the obvious financial ones.

Art Jr. likely expressed the feelings for all five brothers when he said, "I was always hoping to wake up and the whole thing would go away."

It's also not necessarily four brothers vs. Dan and his son. One or two of the brothers could decide not to sell their shares at all, which would scuttle the Druckenmiller bid because sources have told the Post-Gazette that he has no interest in any minority interest in the ballclub.

"If you're going to do something like this, you have to do it all at one time," Art Rooney Jr. said. "You have to go and get a guy like Mr. Druckenmiller and say, it's for control. Mr. Druckenmiller wants that or nothing, as [that] has been made public."

Tim and Pat are said to be the most determined of the brothers to sell. Art Jr. and, supposedly, John have not yet decided.

Art Jr. worked various jobs for the franchise from the time he was old enough to be a ballboy until he became the team's head of player personnel in the 1960s. Under his stewardship, the Steelers had the best draft in NFL history in 1974 and others that helped fuel the great teams of the 1970s.

His brother Dan fired him from his job in 1986, but Art has remained a Steelers vice president, member of its board and owner of the same amount of stock in the franchise as Dan and his other brothers, 16 percent. His passion for the franchise and its heritage also was very evident in the book he published this year.

"He needs us four, yes," Art Jr. said of Druckenmiller's all-or-nothing offer. "That's where it's very difficult for me because this has been my life, even in exile on the outskirts."


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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