Stallworth will be among team's new owners
By Scott Brown
Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2009,
DANA POINT, Calif. — The Steelers added one of the most popular players in their storied history to the ownership group Monday.
Hall of Fame receiver John Stallworth, Chicago venture capitalist Bruce V. Rauner and the Varischetti family of Brockway were unanimously approved at the NFL owners' meetings. They will join the group that chairman Dan Rooney and his son, team president Art II, have been putting together in their attempt to buy out other family members.
The family received an extension from the NFL as it works to complete the sale that would consolidate control of the team in the hands of Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II.
A March 31 deadline originally was set for completion of the sale, but that has been moved to May.
Art Rooney II said last week that the Steelers were close to adding a "very recognizable" figure to the ownership group.
Stallworth certainly qualifies.
One of the stars on the team that dominated the 1970s, Stallworth helped the Steelers win four Super Bowls in six years, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
"That is outstanding," said Joe Greene, who was Stallworth's teammate and still works for the Steelers as a scout. "It's still in the family. I mean that's great that a former player could put himself in that position."
"This is absolutely wonderful," said former Steelers safety Mike Wagner, a teammate of Stallworth's in the '70s. "I think it's a great thing for the Steelers and wonderful for John. He's a class guy, that's for sure."
A Steelers spokesman said neither Dan Rooney nor Art Rooney II would comment on the new investors. The total investment stake of each owner was not disclosed.
Stallworth, 56, sold an Alabama-based technology and government contracting corporation in 2006, and is a partner at Genesis II, a family investment firm. Joining him are Rauner, 53, chairman of an $8 billion private equity firm, and the Varischetti family, whose business interests include nursing facilities and manufacturing firms. The family is involved in VSI Racing, which competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Peter Varischetti, 39, a former University of Pittsburgh football player and Steelers' season ticket holder, characterized his family's ownership stake as "minor."
"The opportunity presented itself, and it's a lifetime opportunity. We feel very fortunate to be able to participate, especially knowing how the Rooneys run their operations. We now have the opportunity to be part of the No.1 franchise in all sports," he said.
The NFL has approved six new investors in the Steelers' ownership group since approving the sale of the team in December.
Four of the Rooney brothers are selling some or all of their shares in the restructuring that will separate the Steelers from the family's gambling interests. Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II are trying to buy enough shares that would give them control of 30 percent of the team and satisfy NFL rules regarding membership equity.
Dan Rooney and his four brothers — Art Jr., Pat, Tim and John — each own 16 percent of the Steelers. The McGinley family controls the other 20 percent.
Under the plan approved by the NFL, Pat and Tim Rooney, who are involved in the family race track business, will sell all of their shares. Art Jr. and John will sell some of their shares and retain limited stakes in the team.
Art Rooney Jr., a former director of player personnel, was instrumental in the Steelers taking Stallworth in the fourth round of the 1974 draft.
Four of the Steelers' first five picks that year made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Art Rooney Jr. said yesterday that his father and Steelers' founder, Art, "would have been elated" to have Stallworth rejoin the organization as a limited partner.
"Mr. Stallworth will be an excellent partner," he said. "He had a phenomenal work ethic. He's tremendously bright."
"You don't get to where he got to without some knowledge and experience," Greene said.
A look at the three newest investors in the Steelers' restructured ownership group. They join James Haslam III, of Knoxville, Tenn.; Thomas Tull of Los Angeles, and five members of Pittsburgh's Robert A. Paul family as minority investors:
• Lives in Huntsville, Ala.
• Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame after playing 14 seasons with the Steelers and winning four Super Bowl titles. Appeared in four Pro Bowls.
• Partner of Genesis II, a family based investment group created in 2006.
• Chairman of the John Stallworth Foundation, which he founded in 1984 to provide scholarships to students attending his alma mater, Alabama A&M.
• President and CEO of Madison Research Corp., a technology and government contracting corporation, before selling the company in 2006.
BRUCE V. RAUNER
• Lives in Chicago
• Chairman of GTCR Golder Rauner, LLC, a venture capital and private equity firm.
• Provided funding for construction of the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College.
• Endowed and funded programs at Dartmouth, Morehouse College, University of Chicago, Harvard Business School and University of Illinois.
• Operations headquartered in Brockway, Jefferson County.
• Holdings include Guardian Elder Care, Varischetti & Sons, Phoenix Sintered Metals, Apple Tractor.
• Community projects funded by Frank Varischetti Foundation, which serves Brockway and DuBois.
• Nursing care business has 23 facilities, including 20 in Pennsylvania.
• Patriarch Frank Varischetti built Varischetti Sanitation into one of Pennsylvania's largest independently owned sanitation companies in 1960s.
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