Steelers Ownership Reshuffled Dan and Art Rooney II to Maintain Control

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 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.

Pat Rooney, John Rooney, Tim Rooney, Art Rooney Jr., Rooney Brothers, Super Bowl XLIII

Pat, John Tim and Art Rooney Jr. @ Super Bowl XLIII, Photo by Kay Rooney

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.

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Shoud Steelers Minority Owner Thomas Tull Buy the Pittsburgh Post Gazette?

The news that the Graham family was selling the Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has sent shock waves through the media landscape.

  • Now how, pray tell, would this subject find itself discussed on a Pittsburgh Steelers blog?

Truthfully, there is no direct link.

But the roots of any good story always lie in the back story, and that brings us to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Steelers minority owner Thomas Tull.

These are hard times for newspapers, as readers and, more importantly, advertisers gravitate to the internet.

  • And there is a cruel irony to this process.

It is a fair bet to say that more eyes probably land on most major dailies than would have been dreamed of a generation ago. The internet has reduced all of the logistical distribution nightmares and corresponding costs to next to zero.

  • Yet for all of that, newspapers continue to cut costs, cut staffs yet still struggle to break even, let alone make a profit.

Elliot King, chairman of the Loyola University Maryland’s Writing and Media department and author of Free For All, a 2010 book on the newspaper industry’s struggles in the digital age, contends that one of the culprits in newspaper’s demise is corporate ownership.

Conversely, King contends, family owned papers have fared better.

  • But the Washington Post, while publicly traded, remained family controlled.

Yet the Graham family, which has owned and run the paper for four generations, ultimately determined that the only way for the paper to thrive was to take it private, which meant selling it off.

This was true in spite of the fact that the Washington Post is an internationally recognized brand name, serving well-heeled, well educated market with a website that is one of the top news destinations.

  • Nonetheless, the Graham family felt it had no choice.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steel City’s flagship publication is also family owned. And in 2006 its owners publicly flirted with selling the paper due to increasing labor costs.

While the Steel Curtain Rising has no inside information on the Post-Gazette’s balance sheet, there is no way the paper can remain immune from the pressures of faced by the entire industry.

To be sure, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette faring better than others. Last year the paper reported a circulation increase. That’s right, the newspaper saw its circulation increase. Certainly the paper benefits for the large concentration of elderly in Western Pennsylvania, readers who prefer newsprint to iPads.

  • But that benefit comes with a Catch-22.

As those readers move on to their heavenly reward, younger ones do not take their place.

It is more than plasuable that the Block family, which owns the Post-Gazette, could face the same decision forced upon the Grahams.

  • But who to sell to?

Well, Pittsburgh has its share of wealthy, but the Rooney family’s 2008 restructuring of the Steelers ownership group also brought connections to young, wealthy, innovator in the form of Steelers minority owner Thomas Tull.

Thomas Tull might not be a household name, but if you’ve seen any of the Batman Dark Knight movies, then you can thank him.

Would Tull be interested? Who knows? Jeff Bezos reportedly had no overt interest in entering the newspaper business until two days ago.

  • Since partnering with the Rooneys, Steelers minority owner Thomas Tull has done his part to help promote the city.

Someday he could be called on to shore up one of its leading media institutions.

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In Memory of Rita McGinley, Part Owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Long time Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner Rita McGinley has passed away.

Rita McGinley was the daughter of Barney McGinley who bought out Bert Bell’s shares of the Steelers when Bell became NFL commissioner. She was related to the Rooney’s by marriage as her brother Jack McGinley was married to Art Rooney Sr.’s sister Marie.

McGinley Loyal to Her Community and Her Team

McGinley was a graduate of Carlow College (then known as Mount Mercy) where she earned a degree in biology, graduating in 1940. She went on to teach at Braddock High and Woodlawn Hills High.

Rita McGinley was not a silent partner in the Steelers. In her obituary on Steelers.com Art Rooney II went at great pains to say that she watched games at Three Rivers Stadium and Heinz Field for as long as she could, always attended shareholder meetings, and was a frequent presence at training camp.

Like her brother before her, Rita McGinley was fiercely loyal to both the Rooney’s and the Steelers.

During the Steelers ownership restructuring of 2008, it became known that shortly after the death of Art Rooney Sr. a representative of an investor approached Jack McGinley asking him if he would be interested in parting with his shares of the Steelers. (Sorry, no link available.)

McGinley promptly told the said representative that his patron could keep his money and while he held on to his share of the Steelers. After McGinley passed away in 2006, a similar offer was made to his heirs.

That suitor was none other that Stanley Druckenmiller, who of course emerged in 2008 with his attempt to buy out the shares of Tim, John, Pat, and Art Rooney, Jr. after Roger Goodell ordered the Rooney family to divest itself of either the Steelers or its horse racing interests.

  • For a time there it seemed like the Rooneys could lose control of the Steelers.

But Rita McGinley made it clear in an interview that she was not parting with her shares of the team, no matter what price was offered to her.

True to her word, she retained her 10% stake in the Steelers when the ownership restructuring was complete. It is unknown who now inherits those shares.

Friend to Carlow College and St. Vincents

While part ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers may have earned Rita McGinley notoriety, “The best description of her is that she was a teacher and philanthropist who happened to have an interest in a football team,” explained her Jack McGinley in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

McGinley was generous with her wealth, donating 5 million dollars to Carlow College where she founded the Rita McGinley Center for Student Success. Mary Hines, President of Carlow College, told the Tribune-Review that was a very dear friend of the university who truly exemplified what a Carlow alum is and what they value.”

  • She also endowed a chair at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe to help perpetuate the legacy of Pittsburgh icon Fred Rodgers.

St. Vincent’s College is well known to Steelers Nation for the obvious reason, but Carlow College might very well be new for many. Situated on “17 glorious acres  in the Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, Carlow is a small, traditionally female, Catholic liberal arts school sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy.

In the generations when female higher education was the exception and not the rule, Carlow severed as a gateway to a college degree to thousands of young women in Western Pennsylvania, including my aunt and my mother.

Thanks, in part, to Rita McGinley’s generosity that door will remain open, and perhaps that will be her most enduring legacy.

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James Harrison Should Just Punch the Quarterback

Ed Bouchette stole my thunder on PG Plus Wednesday.

With all that is going on, I had mind to let the La Toalla Terrible run wild with another post about how the NFL was encouraging Harrison to sucker punch quarterbacks.

But La Toalla Terrible already ranted about how the NFL had legalized holding of James Harrison and about how the NFL would only announce when the league was not fining Harrison. But La Toalla plays a comic relief role, and the James Harrison situation has ceased to be funny…..

No Conspiracy Theories Here But…

The NFL does not “have it in” for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two years ago, the league bent over backwards to ensure that the Rooneys retained ownership of the Steelers. Had the league harbored any ill will, or even neutral will, toward the Steelers, they would have acted differently.
But that certainly does not make their actions toward James Harrison logical or just.

The Power of the Free Market

Free market principles dictate that the value of something is defined by the amount that someone is willing to pay.

Normally we think of this in terms of goods and services, but the same principle applies to fines. I can remember the “One Will Cost You a $100” signs when they first banned smoking in the Boston Subways.

With this mini economics lesson in mind, let’s consider the how severly the NFL values deviant. Let’s begin by conceding that infractions will occur, and that the more serious the infraction, the higher the cost.

In other words, pass interference draws an automatic first down and movement of the ball to the spot of the foul, while the cost of a false start is far lower by comparison.

Now watch for yourself:

Let’s dissect Richard Seymour’s transgression. This Oakland Raider:

  • Punched a player, something he is never supposed to do
  • And did it outside the normal course of play
  • Did so deliberately

His actions were illegal, intentional, and totally outside of a play. Taking all of that into consideration, the league fined him $25,000

Now, watch the latest play by James Harrison that drew a fine (you’ll get to see all of his fineable hits, the last one is at the end):

In contrast to Seymour, James Harrison’s sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick (and arguably the others):

  • Occurred as he was executing the responsibilities of his position
  • Occurred during the normal course of play
  • Was unintentional and within the rules

NFL rules prohibit helmet to helmet contact, and prohibit a defender from leading with the crown of his helmet.

While James Harrison’s helmet (the facemask perhaps) might have make contact – with Fitzpatrick’s chest, it is impossible to argue that he led with the helmet.

Taking all of this into consideration, the NFL fined James Harrison… $25,000.

NFL in “Transition” to… What?

Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk, and Hall of Famer Mike Webster serve as reminders to Steelers Nation that the importance of protecting players for head trauma is paramount.

The NFL’s new “get tough” policy on hits that involve helmets goes beyond protecting players.

  • In effect, if not because of intent, it is an attempt to neuter defenders.

There is no other way to explain the fact that flagrantly violating the rules in an attempt to hurt someone carries the same price an unintentional hit that perhaps violates the letter of the law.

The Steelers as an organization might not be unfairly targeted in this endeavor, but James Harrison as an individual certainly is.

So the next time James Harrison gets blatantly held with no flag thrown, or he gets penalized for brushing up against a quarterback a second too soon, he might as well haul off and upper cut the quarterback.

It will not cost him any more than he is already paying for simply doing his job.

Oh yes, punching the quarterback would also get James Harrison thrown out of the game…

…But perhaps that’s just what the NFL wants to see happen.

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Rooneys Close Steelers Ownership Restructuring, Announce New Partners

What started with a bang that rocked Steelers Nation in July of 2008 ended today without much fanfare.

The Post-Gazette reports that the Steelers announced that they had closed the ownership restructuring process that became public in July 2008, but really began several years ago when the NFL ordered the Rooneys to divest themselves of their gambling interests or else give up the team.

The new ownership group will be headed by Art II and his father Dan Rooney. Also staying on board are brothers John Rooney and Art Rooney Jr. who will maintain about half of their former 16% ownership stakes. The McGinley family will also remain as significantly stakeholders, although they will now apparently control less than the 20% they previously owned.

Rooneys Still Control the Steelers

Details of the deal were not made public, however, it is believed that the new deal is structured to so that the Rooney and McGinley families still maintain controlling interest.

They will also bring on a host of new partners, several of which were announced the for the first time today: David Tepper, the Paul Sams Family, Ben Statler, and Mike Wilkins.

Ealier this spring the Steelers announced that these investors would join the group: James Haslam III, the Paul Family, Thomas Tull, Bruce Rauner, and the Varischetti Family.

The latter group also included a familiar face: Steelers Hall of Fame Wide Receiver John Stallworth.

Check back tomorrow (or perhaps the day after tomorrow), as Steel Curtain Rising will take an indepth look at John Stallworth and his career with the Steelers

To follow the entire thread on the Steelers ownership restructuring process, click here to view everything under the Rooney brothers tag.

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Watch Tower Rooney Rift Greatly Exaggerated by National Media

The closing of the Steelers ownership restructuring process offers the perfect chance to debunk the rumor of the Rooney family feud.

The story that the Rooneys were not only restructuring the Steelers ownership but that Dan’s four brothers might sell their shares to Wall Street tycoon Stanley Druckenmiller took Steelers Nation by storm little more than 13 months ago.

Three story lines dominated the coverage: The NFL was forcing the Rooneys to do this because their race track interests conflicted with league anti-gambling rules, the Rooney brothers, all in their 70’s, needed to plan their estates, and there were differences within the Rooney family as how to work out the situation.

Decoding Sports Journalism Today

The ensuing weeks and months provided a case study into how to decode journalism today.

From the beginning, certain facts were clear.

  • The Steelers were restructuring both at the league’s behest, and in the interest of estate planning
  • One of the younger Rooney brothers had contacted Drukenmiller, who was very interested in buying controlling interest in the Steelers
  • Dan Rooney and Art II wanted to maintain control

Although the two sets of Rooneys did issue dueling press releases, neither release was incendiary, nor did either contain latent threats or hidden time bombs.

That didn’t stop the media from writing about a “family feud.” Newspapers and websites published a plethora of articles to that effect. Many, generally from the national media, spoke volumes about the growing estrangement inside the Rooney Clan. And what do you know, few of these articles cited any sources on the record!

….Back at the Farm

Meanwhile back in Pittsburgh, Post-Gazette reporters Ed Bouchette and Gerry DuLac along with the Tribune-Reviews Carl Prine published their own stories. Certainly they reported that the restructuring was causing tension inside the family. If memory serves, Carl Prine unearthed some details about a few specific moments.

But these reporters also got plenty of people on the record who generally reported that while this transition was complicated and difficult, there was little real bad blood between the brothers.

For his part, Druckenmiller stayed out of the press, instead delegating unnamed third parties to speak on his behalf. As Steel Curtain Rising observed a little over a year ago, Druckenmiller sought to portray his acquisition as imminent and inevitable. Ultimately neither came to pass.

Five Brothers, One Family

When news broke that the Rooneys had agreed in principle to a deal what would leave Dan and Art II with controlling interests in the Steelers, with Art Jr. and John retaining reduced stakes, and with Tim and Pat Rooney selling out, Dan Rooney downplayed any rumor of strife, saying that fights with his brothers over this hadn’t been any worse than fights over anything else.

By that point Dan’s version of events was certainly credible, but Steel Curtain Rising took a final step by asking Ed Bouchette if he bought Rooney’s explanation. Bouchette responded:

Ed Bouchette: Yes, because I’ve talked to all of the brothers and I know that to be the case. You want a bitter family feud, this was not close. Remember, those same people who talked about it being bitter might have been the same ones telling you Michael Vick would land in Pittsburgh.

Story That Needs to Be Told

They say nothing sells a paper like a crisis, and my own experience with this blog has shown just how easy it is to attract attention with negative headlines.

But the story of five brothers each sacrificing a little to come to common agreement over how to keep an 800 million dollar asset in the family is a good story in its own right.

It might not generate the buzz that a sexy squabble between warring brothers does, but it is the kind of story that needs to be told.

And Steel Curtain Rising tips the hat to those who did so.

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Steelers Ownership Resturcturing Nears Close

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that the four Rooney brothers have signed the paperwork to sell all or part of their shares to the new investment group headed by Dan and Art Rooney II.

Under the terms of the agreement, which was reached last November, middle brother Tim and Pat, the oldest of the twins, will sell all of their shares in the Steelers, amounting to 16%. Art Rooney Jr. and John Rooney, will sell about half of their shares.

The McGinley family, which currently controls 20% of the team will also sell part of their shares. How much is not known, but it is not believed to be a large amount.

When Art Rooney Sr. died in 1987, he left each of his sons equal shares of the team. They operated as equal partners, and it was believed that some sort of a buyout was in the offering at some point, if for no other reasons than estate planning.

Decision Day Brought Forward by NFL Anti-Gambling Guidelines

The Rooney family has long had interests in race tracks, some of which now have slot machines and video poker, which runs in conflict to the NFL’s anti-gambling policies. The NFL ordered the Rooneys to either divest themselves of their stakes in the tracks, or sell the Steelers.

Dan Rooney (and presumably Art Jr. and John) opted to get out of the racetrack business, while Tim and Pat will continue to be involved in running the tracks.

The Rooneys have been coy in revealing how much each of the new partners will control, but today the Post-Gazette article termed Hollywood producer Thomas Tull, James Haslam III of Tennessee and the Paul family of Pittsburgh as “major investors” in the group.

Rooney, McGinley Famlies Still to Control Large Majority of Steelers Stock

It has been reported that Dan and Art II will control about 30% of the team’s stock, with John and Art Jr. controlling 16% between them, and the McGinley’s controlling close to their existing 20%.

Together that would leave the Rooney-McGinley family in control of 66% of the team with the new investors controlling the other 34%. (Note – when we first wrote this we got the math wrong, and thanks to Carl Prine’s reporting in the Tribune-Review, it now appears that the McGinley family will sell a larger portion of their stake than anticipated.)

The same Post-Gazette story indicated that the deal would formally close in about two weeks. The deal was supposed to close during the spring, but had to be postponed because additional money needed to be raised, although Art Rooney II indicated that the sum was not large.

Steel Curtain Rising to Say More on John Stallworth Soon

Another, presumably “minor,” investor is NFL Hall of Famer and former Steelers wideout John Stallworth. When the deal is complete, Steel Curtain Rising will offer a comprehensive look at John Stallworth and his legacy with the Steelers.

So stay tuned!

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Watch Tower: Stallworth Ownership, Rooney Ambassadorship, and the NFL Owners Meeting Wrap Up

You wouldn’t think that the John Stallworth’s joining the Rooneys as a partner, Dan Rooney’s Ambassadorship, or the NFL Owners meetings would provide much fodder for the Watch Tower, but they did.

2009 NFL Owners Meetings

The NFL spring owners meetings are usually accompanied by a rush of news, if for no other reason than it is a time when coaches, GMs, and owners are altogether in one place and available for interviews.

The Post-Gazette and Tribune Review got face time with Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and the Rooneys, but the Tribune Review got the better of the Post-Gazette in terms of coverage.

The Tribune-Review’s Scott Brown went beyond reporting what these men had to say and delivered on the prime topic of concern to Steelers Nation fans, namely free agency, and John Stallworth’s ascension to the Steelers ownership suite.

Brown talked with Kevin Colbert about the Max Starks situation, and in the process the Steelers Director of football operations issued a ringing endorsement of the Steelers recently franchised left tackle:

He maintained his focus and he was able to contribute to us this season in a big way. To me, that says a lot about who that player is, to be able to deal with a situation where he lost his job, he stayed positive and he came back and produced in a big way for us. I think that just says a ton about more so what his makeup is rather than his abilities.

Brown also took the extra step of sharing Colbert’s thoughts about Limas Sweed’s development. Bouchette did report on Colbert’s take on the Steelers situation at wide receiver, but he failed to report any new news on Limas Sweed, a player whose growth is obviously of great import both to the Steelers and Steelers Nation.

Ditto the John Stallworth Ownership Coverage

Much the same can be said of the coverage of John Stallworth. Ed Bouchette’s articles on the subject certainly were not deficient in anyway, but Scott Brown went the extra mile.

The Post-Gazette published two (on line) articles on the Stallworth story where Bouchette delivered the essential facts, but delivered little else to readers.

The Scott Brown also published two articles on the Stallworth story, but his were much richer. In his first article, Brown shared insights from Art Rooney Jr., the man who scouted Stallworth, a current owner and one of Stallworth’s future partners. He also shared comments from Stallworth’s former teammate, current fellow Hall of Famer, and future employee Joe Greene, and well as Steelers safety Mike Wagner, who no doubt spent lots of time chasing after Stallworth during practice in the 70’s.

For his second article Brown teamed up with Mike Pruista, and the two men told the story of how Stallworth got involved in the ownership process through the words of both Rooneys, along with additional comments from Andy Russell.

Kudos to Scott Brown for hustling for the story.

Opps I

Both Dan Rooney’s nomination as ambassador to Ireland and the latest developments in the Steelers ownership restructuring resulted in minor slip ups on the part of both Pittsburgh dailies.

  • The main culprit? The timing of Dan Rooney’s decision to hand over the Steelers Presidency to Art II.

When Rooney was first named ambassador to Ireland, Ed Bouchette reported that Art II had assumed the title of Steelers President in 2002. This contradicted what Steel Curtain Rising had written and we assumed that we were in error.

  • A quick check of the Steelers Media Guide confirmed that the Art Rooney II had become Steelers President in 2003, not 2002.

The error resurfaced when the news about John Stallworth was announced, this time in both the Tribune Review and the Post Gazette. Once again we doubled checked, and it says right there on page 262-263 of Dan Rooney’s self-titled autobiography that the change of title occurred in 2003.

Oops II

The Steelers ownership restructuring was the subject of a more significant error in the Post-Gazette as you can see below.

This is factually correct as far as the new ownership group is concerned.

The only problem with this is that Tim Rooney is not Pat Rooney’s twin – John Rooney is. Tim Rooney by all accounts the consummate middle child. In his book Ruanaidh, Art Jr. talks about how Tim was the most likely to stand up to Art Sr. and during the past year, Tim was the one Rooney brother who pushed hardest to accept Stanley Druckenmiller’s buyout offer.

The Nitty Gritty…

If you’ve read this far you’re not adverse to minutia.

A factoid of interest to very, very few can be found in the coverage of Marvel Smith’s tenure as a free agent. ESPN’s John Clayton was the first to err in his analysis of free agency’s second, when he mentioned that Smith had been waived by the Steelers. The ESPN article that announced Marvel Smith’s signing with the San Francisco 49ers also said that Smith had been waived.

Accept that he wasn’t. Smith’s contract was up meaning he was no longer the Steelers to waive. The team simply opted not to try to resign him.

Thanks for reading. Watch Tower is Steel Curtain Rising’s column dedicated to casting a critical eye on those who cover the Steelers. Click here to read the entire series.

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John Stallworth Joins Steelers Ownership Group

John Stallworth has proven that you can come home again. The Rooneys revealed their new investors at the conclusion of the NFL’s spring owners meeting, and they made good on their promise that this latest investor group would contain “one very recognizable name.”

Stallworth is the CEO and President of Genesis II and for twenty years was the owner of the Madison Research Corporation, a company that did business with NASA and the US military.

As John Stallworth joins the Steelers ownership group he is accompanied by other new partners who include:

  • Bruce V. Rauner, chairman of GTCR Golder Rauner, LLC
  • the Varischetti family of Brockway, Jefferson County.

These men join the three investors named last December, they are:

  • James A. Haslam III who is president of Pilot Travel Centers, the nation’s leading retail operator of truckstops and travel centers
  • Robert A. Paul, 70, who is the chairman and CEO of Ampco-Pittsburgh, a specialty steel manufacturer headquartered Downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Hollywood movie producer Thomas Tull, whose producing credits include Superman Returns and Batman: The Dark Knight.

The Surprise We’ve Been Waiting For

Since the news of the Steelers ownership restructuring broke last July, both Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II announced that they were lining up investors to help them buy out the other four Rooney brothers, and promised early on that their new partners would include recognizable names.

When the announcement of the first three investors last December contained some interesting personalities, particularly Tull, a noted Steelers fanatic, but the Hollywood blockbuster movie maker’s name is hardly on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

John Stallworth’s is. Players from the Super Steelers have made a concerted effort to stay connected with the team, yet this is the first instance of one actually becoming an owner. It is a novel, but most welcome trend.

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Dan Rooney Named Ambassador to Ireland – What Effect Will It Have on the Steelers?

President Barack Obama has nominated Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney to be the US ambassador to Ireland. The nomination was made today as the Patriarch of Steelers Nation and Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen joined the President at the White House for a St. Patrick’s day ceremony.

The move had been anticipated by the Irish Times as early as March the 5th, but the nomination took much of Steelers Nation by surprise as Pittsburgh newspapers made no mention of the possibility until today.

The grandson of an Irish immigrant, Rooney has been active in Irish affairs for decades, founding the America for Ireland fund in the 1970’s. The America for Ireland fund has promoted peaceful resolution of Ireland’s sectarian troubles, and has supported education throughout the Emerald Island.

The Effect on the Steelers

While most of the news has focused on the nomination itself, little has been said about its effect on the Steelers. It’s too early to reach many conclusions, but there is a lot of interesting food for thought.

Rooney Had Better Have His Finances in Order

Nominations for ambassadorships require US Senate approval. Rarely does the Senate reject ambassador nominations (although Bill Wield’s was in 1997) but all nominees do need to go though some sort of scrutiny and vetting to gain.

Normally this would not be more or less a formality, but Rooney is in the middle of trying to conclude the transaction that will see him buy out his brothers Pat and Tim and half of the shares in the Steelers controlled by his brothers John and Art Jr. It’s been reported that Dan Rooney and his son Art II had to take out a loan from PNC Bank topping 300 million dollars. He is also bringing in a number of minority investors.

One needs no degree in finance to know that any deal of this magnitude is going to be complicated. Rooney had make sure his lawyers and accountants have all of the details of the deal in order as Senate scrutiny will bring to light any irregularities that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

How Much of a Role will Dan Rooney Continue to Play in the Management of the Steelers?

Dan Rooney turned over the title of President to his son Art II in 2003. Dan passed the torch just as his father had, no public announcement, just a change in the Steelers annual Media Guide.
At the time it seemed like Dan was planning to phase out his day to day role with the Steelers. And for a while that seemed to be just what was happening. Major announcements, such as the retirement of Myron Cope (if memory serves, if not please correct me) were made by Art II while Dan was off on vacation (apocryphally in Ireland.)

And it was Art II who, in the spring of 2005, declared that it was “time for a Super Bowl.” A little less than two years later, it Art II acted as the team’s point man during the process that saw Bill Cowher begin his coaching hiatus and Mike Tomlin’s selection as his replacement.

Whether by plan, necessity or circumstance, over the past year or so Art II seems to have stepped back in the shadows and Dan has been back in the spotlight.

  • It was Dan Rooney who stood with Pittsburgh Mayor Mark Ravenstall at Mryon Cope’s mid-day memorial Terrible Towel wave
  • Ben Roethlisberger stood with Dan Rooney on the day he signed his new contract
  • Dan Rooney announced the departure of Cedric Wilson and the subsequent decision to keep James Harrison – a move that that got the Steelers Chairman in to trouble as he seemingly excused Harrion’s transgression (he later clarified that he did not condone James Harrison’s actions)
  • Throughout the negotiations to restructure the Steelers ownership, Dan Rooney was in the forefront, Art’s name was seldom if ever mentioned

Likewise, at Super Bowl XLIII, it was Dan Rooney who spoke, whereas Art II simply stood off to the side.

Indeed, press reports abounded with descriptions of how Dan is at the Steeler complex everyday, how Dan makes it a point to talk with players in the locker room, take his place behind others in the lunch line, etc…. Those articles made no mention of Art II.

With technology what it is, Rooney is certainly not going to abdicate his role as Chairman of the Steelers. But clearly his day-to-day absence from the Steelers offices in the South Side is clearly this is going to have an effect on the team.

Effect on the League

When news of the Steelers restructuring broke, the NFL made no bones about the fact that they wanted Dan Rooney to retain control of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Part of the reason Dan Rooney’s stabilizing influence on the league.

The NFL is headed for some very complicated negotiations with the players union. Dan Rooney was one of the first owners to realize the importance and recoganize the legitimacy of the players union. Rooney has been a clear and consistent voice admonishing both the owners and the union to work as partners, pushing for fairness in negotiations, and brokering compromises when situations became intractable. The result has been unfettered labor peace for over 20 years, a claim that none of the other major sports can make.

The explosion in the NFL’s revenues and its popularity is directly related to that labor peace.

The league barely avoided a crisis with the union the last time the Collective Bargaining Agreement was renegotiated. While it’s true the Art II played an important role in brokering the deal that ultimately kept the peace, Dan’s influence should not be underestimated.

Even with Rooney on board many pundits were predicting a strike and/or lockout for 2010 or 2011. Does Dan Rooney stepping out of the picture make a work stoppage inevitable?

Steel Curtain Rising will be analyzing the impact that Dan Rooney’s ambassadorship will have on the Pittsburgh Steelers in depth in the coming days. 

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