View Full Version : Art II now flying solo as Steelers begin quest for No. 7

Galax Steeler
09-10-2009, 03:53 AM
In the button-down world of Art Rooney II, it doesn't matter what is on his plate or which of the many paths he follows. Tucked among the law degree and the firm that bears his name, a long way from the summer he spent studying the law of the English economic community in Exeter, England, nearly two decades removed from a possible U.S. Senate appointment, one constant remains for the oldest grandson of the man who founded the Steelers: He loves his family.

It has fueled nearly every decision Art Rooney II has ever made, beginning when his dad would take him to the office on most Saturdays, just like lots of other dads. Only his father happened to run the Steelers, and the office was usually the locker room of one of the most storied franchises in the National Football League.

It is the reason, he tends to joke, he went to law school at Duquesne University and became an attorney who specializes in corporate law. His grandfather, Art Rooney Sr., the late founder of the Steelers, told him, "All we do is spend time with lawyers. Why don't you become a lawyer?" So he did.

It is his love for his family -- his wife Greta and their four children; his grandfather, his dad and their extended family, the Steelers -- that has thrust Art Rooney II, 56, the oldest of Dan's nine children, into a position that isn't so much new as it is different. He has been president of the Steelers since 2003, a period during which the franchise has won two Super Bowl titles, hired a new coach, and had its ownership restructured in dramatic and historic fashion. And yet, he maintains, his responsibilities now are really no different than they were then.

He makes most, if not all, of the day-to-day decisions surrounding the Steelers; meets with Coach Mike Tomlin and director of football operations Kevin Colbert nearly every day after practice; watches game film with Mr. Colbert, long-time super scout Bill Nunn and other members of the personnel department every Monday morning; handles every and all issues that concern Heinz Field -- which, in retrospect, is really how he made the transition from lawyer to team president -- and still serves as the team's unofficial legal counsel.

"He had other avenues he could have followed, but I still think his heart was geared to this," said Mr. Nunn, who has known the young Rooney since he was a 13-year-old ball boy at training camp. "He would never say it, but he loves this role he is in right now. In some ways, he's going through some of the same things that Dan had to go through with the Chief."

But there is one significant change to his job description, and it is the most dramatic of all: For the first time since he was quietly elevated to his role as president, Art Rooney II is effectively going at it alone. If he were given the keys to the Steelers car six years ago, he has lost his front-seat passenger, the man who might not have told him where to turn but was there just in case he got lost.

Used to be, Art Rooney II could walk out his office that overlooks the grass practice field at the Steelers' South Side practice facility, take five steps and stick his head in the office occupied by Dan Rooney, his Hall of Fame father. Not anymore. His father, who is still considered chairman emeritus of the franchise, is now the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and residing in Dublin, Ireland.

Sure, Dan Rooney is back in town this week for the Steelers' regular-season opener tonight with the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field. And, yes, he has spent the past several days at his South Side office. But, no matter how many times his son wants to say nothing is really different without him, the reality of life without his dad is this: Art II has been left a hefty slice of Steelers lore and he is doing his best to maintain the Rooney tradition, just as his dad had to do 34 years before him.

"I don't view it as a dramatic change," Mr. Rooney said. "There's a little more responsibility at the league level because my dad did a lot of that. There's more on my plate in that front. But, in general, it doesn't feel like a dramatic change for me.

"There are more phone calls, more stuff at my desk. There's a little more volume of stuff, no question about that. But, so far, it's not like I'm doing something dramatically different from what I've been doing."

With one small exception: He is overseeing the ownership landscape of the franchise, and that is dramatically different.
Keeping it in the family

In less than a year, the ownership structure of the Steelers has changed more cataclysmically than at any time since Mr. Rooney's grandfather bought the franchise in 1933, an upheaval that has even those involved still waiting for the tremors to subside.

To be sure, majority control of the Steelers remains in the hands of Dan and Art II, and to a lesser degree, three of the principles who previously had a financial stake in the franchise -- Dan's brothers, Art Jr. and John, each of whom have kept an 8 percent share in the team; and the family of the late Jack McGinley.

But, because of the investment package Art II had to put together to keep majority control in the Rooney family, as many as 10 other investors -- all outsiders -- now have a financial stake in the franchise. Six of the other owners have been announced and approved by the NFL. At least three to four other investors will be identified after the closing, which is expected shortly.

At the forefront of the restructuring was Art Rooney II.

"I keep on wondering how he could do it all," said Art Rooney Jr., who is Art II's uncle and, godfather and also bears the name of the Steelers founder. "It's tough on your family. You're really taking something that's 75 years old that had to be, has to be, done, and you're doing it on top of all the football stuff."

The rest of the story is below


Galax Steeler
09-10-2009, 03:53 AM
That burden weighed heavily on Art II, who, despite his unflappable exterior, admits he was worried about finalizing the deal and keeping the franchise in the family.

"But, I don't know why, I always felt in the back of my mind it was going to work out," Mr. Rooney said. "I was confident it was going to work out in a way that it would be the right way. But it was a challenge, no question about it. There were some rough times.

"My dad and I both felt that one of things we wanted to do was keep that separate from the football side, try to make sure what we were doing on that side was quiet and out of the way of football business, and I think we did that."
Living up to the name

The spectre of Art Rooney Sr. -- "The Chief," who died in August 1988 at 87 -- still looms large. His statue, omnipresent cigar in hand, sits outside Gate A at Heinz Field, the facility he never got to see but one whose construction was spearheaded by the grandson who carries his famous name.

The Chief was many things -- gregarious and magnanimous, friendly to everyone, frugal but generous. "An old-time politician," Mr. Nunn said. "He had time for everybody."

His eldest son, Dan, was more detached, more business-like, especially at a younger age. Strangely, it wasn't until Dan began to morph into his father's role -- right down to being called "Mr. Rooney" -- that his eldest son, Art II, took on the characteristics of a young Dan Rooney.

"Dan was very, very, very different from my dad," Art Rooney Jr. said. "One thing was, he had a different attitude. Dan went to Duquesne and took those business courses and every chance he got he applied those principles. Don't get me wrong. My dad knew how to handle money. He could be tough, but he could also be generous. But when Dan got there, he had to be the tough guy."

On the outside, the persona of Art Rooney II is that, and more. He is reserved and quiet, polite and without vitriol. By comparison to his more famous predecessors, he appears aloof, rigid and distant -- none of which is really the case.

"I think if you strip away all the exterior of all three, they're all the same person on the inside," Mr. Colbert said.

"He's so quiet, I really think he's misunderstood," said his long-time friend, Dave Malone, president and chief executive officer of Gateway Financial Group. Downtown. "Art is one of the nicest people I've ever met. He's really a thoughtful and considerate guy with a pretty unbelievable grasp of where he sits in the world and how lucky he is to be there. He has a significant level of responsibility to always do the right thing. And he's serving in a capacity that I think he considers a privilege."

Just like bearing the name of his grandfather.

"It was a tough thing, I thought, for him to have the name, 'Art Rooney,'" Mr. Nunn said. "First of all, he had his uncle with that name, then he had his grandfather, and a lot of times when a kid is brought up under those circumstances, he has lot to live up to. But one thing I always saw in him was his ability to think things through. He's really not an outgoing sort of guy. He's not going to come in and do this," he said, reaching his hand over his shoulder to pat himself of the back.

"Sometimes, with quiet people, other people have a tendency to think they're a little weak. And, in many respects, people have a tendency to shy away from people like that. To me, that was one of his strong points. He can look at a situation and really come to some pretty good conclusions, even as a young guy."
A path not taken

In 1991, after the plane crash that killed U.S. Sen. John Heinz III, Art Rooney II, then 38, was approached by Gov. Robert Casey about filling the vacant seat.

Casey got to know the young Rooney because his still-fledgling law firm -- Klett, Rooney, Lieber & Schorling -- had an office in Harrisburg and often represented the state government.

Mr. Rooney had never served in any elected office, but he had some political ties, serving as a national delegate for the 1984 Democratic National Convention and helping some candidates with their campaigns. The thought of the young, clean-cut Mr. Rooney being a U.S. senator tantalized and thrilled members of his family.

"I thought it would be great for our family," Art Rooney Jr. said. "Grandma Rooney's people were coalminers and the first Art Rooney was a steelworker. To have a U.S. senator would have been tremendous."

But Art II declined to be considered, even after meeting with political consultants James Carville and Paul Begala, each of whom served as advisers to President Bill Clinton. At the time, Mr. Rooney's wife was pregnant with their third child, Mary Greta, and the demands of the job would have been too disruptive to his family.

"For a period of time, it was something they were seriously considering, appointing me, and I was seriously considering accepting the appointment," he said. "They never said, 'We're picking you.' Maybe they would have never picked me anyway. But I was at the point where they did ask me if I was serious about moving forward and, after thinking about it for a few days, I said no.

"I remember one of the political consultants came over the house one night and we're talking through what it meant and what you have to do [to be a senator] and he said to my wife, 'Well, you just have to figure it's like he's going off to war. Just think like you're married to a soldier and he's going away for active duty for six months.' Of course, that didn't go over too big.

"The more I thought about it, it would have been a tough time for me to disappear. We had just started on the firm; I was managing partner. There was a lot of stuff that was just kind of hard to walk away from at that point in time. I don't regret it, but I think about how different things would have been."

Casey eventually appointed Harris Wofford to replace Heinz.

"The No. 1 thing in Art's life is his family," Mr. Malone said. "His kids are critical to him and so is his wife. The decision not to take that seat was driven by his need to be with his family at the age his kids were at the time."

Still, his decision disappointed some in the Rooney family.

"I thought he should have taken it," said his uncle, Art. Jr. "He had a good chance of getting it. The whole family thing of getting to that point, of being a senator ... that's why I was so thrilled about Dan getting the ambassadorship. From where we came from, to become Ambassador to Ireland, it's an honor for our family, as it would have been for Art to be a senator."

Instead, he became the team president.

Which, with the name Art Rooney, is probably where he belongs.