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Steelers

Steelers wrapping up loose ends

| Friday, March 20, 2009

The Steelers could have three new investors by early next week as chairman Dan Rooney and president Art Rooney II work to consolidate control of the team.

One of the investors has already been approved by the NFL's finance committee, Rooney II said Thursday. The other two are awaiting approval from that group before the owners vote on the three new partners at next week's meetings in Dana Point, Calif.

Rooney II said he could not name the new investors because they have not been approved from the NFL.

"We have one fellow in this group who I think is going to get approved at this meeting who is a very recognizable name," Rooney said.

The NFL has already approved three investors: Tennessee businessman James Haslem, the Paul family of Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, and Thomas Tull, a Hollywood movie producer.

Rooney II said he and his father also are in talks with "two or three" other investors.

A March 31 deadline has been set for the transfer of control of the team to Dan and Art Rooney II. Rooney II said the deadline can be extended if significant progress has been made toward that end.

"If we move (the deadline), we're only going to move it 30 or 60 days, something like that," Rooney II said.

The NFL mandated a restructuring of ownership to separate the Steelers from the Rooney family's gaming interests and bring the storied franchise into compliance with league rules regarding ownership 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 NFL owners in December, Pat and Tim Rooney will sell all of their shares to Dan and Art II, while Art Jr. and John will sell some of their shares and retain a limited ownership stake in the Steelers.

Art Rooney Jr. said Thursday he is hopeful the deal will get done.

Rooney II said the tough economic times have not hindered his and his father's attempts to line up investors.

"We haven't lost anybody," Rooney II said while knocking on a wooden conference table at the Steelers' South Side practice facility. "I think (the economy) is on everybody's mind, but I don't think it's going to stop this transaction."

The NFL and some of its franchises have cut staff because of the recession, but Rooney II said he doesn't anticipate the Steelers laying off workers.

The Steelers did not raise ticket prices for next season, but Rooney II said that is more a function of the way the franchise has operated. He said the Steelers generally raise prices every other year, and there was a hike for the 2008 season.

The restructuring of ownership isn't the only potential Steelers change. Dan Rooney was recently nominated as ambassador to Ireland by President Barack Obama. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Rooney will spend considerable time at his new job.

Rooney II, who runs the Steelers' day-to-day operations, said his job won't change much if his father becomes ambassador to Ireland.

"It'll be different," Rooney II said, "but he'll still be around. If it happens, we'll deal with it."

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