Rooney working diligently to buy out brothers

| Friday, Oct. 17, 2008

Concern over a looming hike in the capital gains tax has four of the Rooney brothers looking to sell their shares of the Steelers before the end of the year.

Tim Rooney told the Tribune-Review, however, that unless Steelers chairman Dan Rooney puts together a viable offer to buy out his four younger brothers, uncertainty over team ownership will carry into 2009.

"I don't believe the Steelers will be restructured by the end of the year unless Dan buys the team by that time," Tim Rooney said Thursday via email.

Tim Rooney and his three brothers, Art Jr., Pat and John, turned down an earlier offer Dan Rooney made to them for their shares. Dan Rooney is trying to retain control of the Steelers and comply with NFL rules regarding gambling and ownership equity.

The NFL has been pressing the brothers, each of whom owns 16 percent of the Steelers, to resolve the ownership issue and keep the team in the Rooney family.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday he has gotten assurances that Dan Rooney will divest himself of all gambling interests if he remains in control of the Steelers.

The Rooneys own race tracks in New York and Florida that have casino gambling and are in violation of the league's gambling policy.

"Dan Rooney made it extremely clear that he was not going to be involved in the gambling business moving forward if he was successful in being able to complete this transaction where he wants to stay as the general partner of the Steelers," Goodell said after the conclusion of NFL owners meetings in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Steelers must also restructure ownership.

The NFL stipulates that the majority owner of a team must have at least a 30-percent share of it though 20 percent is acceptable if the other 10 percent is held by an immediate family member.

Dan Rooney could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Following the owners meetings Wednesday, he said he had briefed other owners on where the Steelers stand regarding the sale of the team.

Four of the Rooney brothers are looking to sell their shares because of the prohibitive estate tax their heirs could get stuck paying. They are also concerned, Tim Rooney said, that the capital gains tax will increase if Barack Obama is elected president.

In additon to Dan Rooney's bid, the four Rooney brothers turned down an offer made by billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller last month.

Druckenmiller, who has ties to Pittsburgh, had set aside $800 million to purchase the Steelers.

The brothers have not negotiated with any outside buyers since Druckenmiller ended his bid to buy the team. A desire to keep the franchise founded by their father, Art, in the family has increased sentiment among the brothers to work out a deal for their shares with Dan Rooney.

Tim Rooney said the brothers won't sell to a buyer outside of the family before giving Dan Rooney a chance to match the offer made to them.

"I believe Dan has a right of first refusal with all my brothers," Tim Rooney said, "whether he has one legally or not."

The NFL has not set a deadline for when the Steelers ownership situation has to be settled, but Goodell said he has been pushing for a "fast timetable."

"We're sensitive to the emotional issues, the financial issues and the complexity of what needs to get done here," Goodell said. "I think everyone recognizes the complexity of the issue, and we'll be patient. But we want a plan put together that would get them into compliance (with NFL policy)."

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