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Dan Rooney trying to buy out brothers

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By Mike Prisuta
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Steelers said prolonged, ongoing negotiations are under way concerning the "restructuring" of ownership, which could result in the sale of the franchise or a consolidation of control within the Rooney family.

The team said that chairman Dan Rooney and his son, president Art Rooney II, are trying to buy Dan's brothers' shares in order to "ensure compliance with NFL ownership policies."

Discussions have been taking place for two years, the team said in a statement.

Industry analyst Darren Rovell said the potential relocation of the Steelers is not an issue, even if the franchise is ultimately sold.

"There is zero-percent chance the Steelers will move out of Pittsburgh if they get new owners," said Rovell, a sports/business reporter for CNBC. "I will drink six bottles of Heinz ketchup, back to back, in 10 minutes, if I'm wrong on that."

Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp Limited, envisions an eventual resolution of the Steelers' ownership issue that results in "Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II ultimately owning the Steelers, that part of the lineage from Art Rooney Sr. still in control."

Dan Rooney said in a statement that he intends to "do everything possible to work out a solution to ensure my father's legacy of keeping the Steelers and the Rooney family in Pittsburgh for at least another 75 years."

Shortly after the Steelers announced their intentions in a statement, the Wall Street Journal posted a story on its Web site that said the Steelers franchise has been "secretly shopped to potential buyers amid continuing divisions among the five sons of the team's founder, Art Rooney Sr."

The franchise was founded in 1933 by Art Rooney Sr.

The Steelers had no comment other than what was released in their statement, which said Dan Rooney wants to "stay in the football business" while some of his four brothers want to "get out of the NFL and focus their business efforts on their racetracks and other interests."

Dan Rooney's brothers -- Art Jr., Timothy, Patrick and John -- have ownership interest in the Steelers. The McGinley family has a minority interest in the team. The Rooney family owns racetracks in New York and Florida, and the team said "these facilities have added forms of gaming that are inconsistent with NFL gambling policy."

Ganis, whose firm has done business with more than a third of the NFL's teams in areas of acquisition, stadium development and relocation, said there's more to the story than an attempt to adhere to NFL policy.

"The other part of the issue is succession," he said, "and the Rooneys aren't the only family to deal with this. The only thing that's unexpected here is this getting out. With Dan Rooney, this type of thing typically doesn't get public."

An NFL spokesman said commissioner Roger Goodell had no comment on the Steelers' ownership negotiations.

The Steelers' statement said Goodell has asked former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to "serve as a league representative in discussions with the family in order to reach an agreement on the separation of the gambling interests and on a restructuring of ownership if the team is sold."

According to league policy, no NFL owner may own, directly or indirectly, any interests in a gambling casino.

The NFL defines any facility with slot machines as a casino.

Any sale involving an NFL team is subject to a league review and must be approved by 75 percent of member clubs.

An NFL spokesman said no deadline has been established for resolution of the Steelers' ownership situation.

The Steelers were valued at $929 million by Forbes Magazine in September. Rovell said the reported shopping of the team could be an example of the Rooneys doing their "due diligence" while trying to resolve their problems.

"If one family member is trying to buy out another family member, they can put it out there on the market and find out how much people think it's worth and then determine a better value for each member of the Rooney family," Rovell said.

Added Ganis: "The end result may be that the league needs to help out, bend some of their rules to help out a long-standing partner."

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