Since Art Rooney Sr. founded the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933, the names “Rooney” and “Steelers” have been synonymous, save for a brief period in the 40’s when Art Rooney sold the team to Bert Bell.
That began changing in 2008 as the Steelers restructured their ownership group on the heels of an order from Roger Goodell to divest gambling interest while Stanley Druckenmiller attempted a hostile takeover.
- Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II came out on top, albeit with a new group of partners.
Dan and Art II prevailed in part because Art Rooney Jr. and John Rooney were not ready to sell out and also in part because Roger Goodell made no bones about the fact that the NFL would do all it could to block any sale of majority interest to Stanley Drukenmiller.
Yet if Dan and Art II still controlled the team, precious little information was available to the public about the structure of the Steelers ownership.
That is changing however, thanks to a report from Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Steelers Ownership Reshuffled Again, Dan and Art II Stay on Top
Super Bowl XLIII represented a peak for the franchise, but the moment was bitter sweet for the Rooney family as it marked the last time the five brothers would control the franchise their father founded. As Ed Bouchette noted at the time, it was a bittersweet moment for the Rooney brothers, as none of were smiling in the photo taken after the game.
When the initial Steelers ownership restructuring was announced, it was known that Tim and Pat Rooney would essentially divest their shares of the Steelers, while Art Rooney Jr. and John Rooney would give up about half of their 16% stakes.
- At the time reports indicated that they might be giving up more at a later time.
Per Ed Bouchette’s report, that time has come.
The 2009 agreement includes options for minority partners to buy out the other Rooney brothers , and John Rooney apparently sold his shares at the end of 2015. Art Rooney Jr. could follow, and the 2.5% stake that Pat Rooney still holds could also be sold.
While no public information who owned what percentage of the Steelers ever saw the light of day in 2009, the general outlines of the Steelers ownership structure were fairly clear. NFL rules mandate that one partner control at least 30%, although the rule was bent to allow Art and Dan to satisfy that requirement together.
With John and Art Jr. holding 16% together, that gave the Rooney family around 46%. Combine that with the McGinley’s close to 20% and the Rooneys and McGinleys must have controlled over 50%.
- Ed Bouchette’s report indicates that is changing.
John Rooney is out or almost out, and the other shareholders retain the right to buy out all or part of Art Jr.’s and the McGinley’s shares.
But Bouchette’s article goes at great pains to assure fans that Art Rooney II and Dan Rooney are not going anywhere.
Bouchette reveals that Art Rooney II had a 20% stake in 2009 and has since increased his percentage. While Bouchette did not provide any details on how or when this occurred, Jimmy Haslam sold his stake in the Steelers when he bought the Browns, and Rita McGinley’s death could have potentially provided Art II with another chance to increase his stake.
Ed Bouchette also got Jack McGinley and Thomas Tull, who could probably be the next largest share holder, on the record supporting Art Rooney II’s continued control of the team.
Bouchette’s report also implies that even after the Steelers ownership reshuffling, the Rooneys will remain, at the very least, the largest minority.