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Old 11-05-2008, 08:05 AM   #1
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Default Rooney brother mulls big decision

Rooney brother mulls big decision
By Carl Prine and Scott Brown
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On Sept. 17, a 74-year-old man entered the downtown O'Reilly Theater.

As the one-man show "The Chief" unfolded, he slumped in the dark, watching the actor play out the events of the life of North Side patriarch Art Rooney Sr. The words unspooling from the stage reached into the man's deepest memories, the place in his soul where legend and blood and honor entwine to form decisions.

The next day, at 4:30 p.m., he was asked to make the cardinal decision of his life -- would the son named after "The Chief," Art Rooney Jr., agree to sell the team his dad founded 75 years ago?

"I thought, 'Gee, before that meeting, all the Rooney boys and Jack McGinley should sit back and watch this together. I watched 'The Chief' and I thought and thought. It became much more difficult, all the soul searching I was doing," said Art Jr., who as the former head of the Steelers' scouting department helped sculpt the squad that would win four Super Bowl trophies in the 1970s.

On Sept. 18, he and three of his brothers -- Timothy, Patrick and John -- decided to balk at an $840 million cash offer for the Steelers from Manhattan philanthropist and hedge fund billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, a rabid fan of the black and gold.

"Some of the brothers said, 'Someone will come up and buy it,' but I didn't know. Within 24 hours, it seemed as if Wall Street had collapsed," said Art Jr.

"If you had to sell to an outsider, Mr. Druckenmiller was the person, a true sportsman. The only reason why you would even consider selling, however, was to do it for your family. You try to do the best thing for your family.

"If it was up to me, personally, I would die a Steeler."

On Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he continued to try to work out complicated ownership issues dogging the Rooney family.

Art Jr. confirmed that he has had two meetings recently with Goodell and another "four or five" sessions with former commisioner Paul Tagliabue. For nearly a year, Tagliabue has been trying to broker a sale of all or parts of the brothers' shares to either Dan Rooney and his son, Steelers president Art II, or an outside investor.

"They've talked to me, John and Pat," said Art Jr.

In an e-mail message to the Trib, New York's Timothy Rooney said he hadn't been been in direct talks with the NFL or the other brothers, but added that his siblings might try to hammer out a deal. He said Druckenmiller was out of the picture.

Druckenmiller declined comment.

NFL bylaws bar franchise owners from controlling casinos, and Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and his four younger brothers have built highly successful paramutuel tracks and gaming rooms in Florida and New York. League laws also say a majority owner should keep at least a 20 percent stake in a club, so long as another close relative owns an additional 10 percent of the team's shares.

Hall of Famer Dan and his brothers each hold 16 percent stakes willed to them by "The Chief." Cousin Jack and the rest of the McGinley clan control the remaining 20 percent.

"With the economic conditions in the country right now, we might not see a better chance to work this out for a while," said Art Jr.

Goodell told the Trib that a deteriorating economy likely will deplete both the league's coffers and the disposable income of its fans.

"Credit is harder to get. It's more expensive to get and so that affects all of us that way, directly. A lot of our business partners are going through tremendous restructuring and have significant challenges, and we have to be sensitive to that," said Goodell, who succeeded Tagliabue in 2006.

Both Tagliabue and Steelers chairman Dan Rooney declined to comment about ongoing negotiations.

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