NFL Owners Could Block Hedge Fund Manager’s Bid For Steelers

Aug 6 2008 | 12:04pm ET

In his battle to keep the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers in his family’s hands and out of those of hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, Dan Rooney may have to call on his impressive defensive line.

As his four brothers—who, along with Rooney each own 16% of the franchise—and his McGinley relations—who own the remaining 20%—consider selling their stakes to Druckenmiller, Rooney may be forced to call on his fellow NFL owners to keep the Steelers in the family that founded it in 1933.

Before an NFL team can be sold, 24 out of the 32 owners must sign off on the deal. That means if Rooney can persuade just eight of his brethren to vote against Druckenmiller, he may be able to sack the Duquense Capital Management chief’s bid for the team. And according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Football Hall of Famer has a lot of support in the owners’ fraternity.

“A new owner would need to show a strong case for us to vote against Dan Rooney,” Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy told the Tribune-Review. John Mara, co-owner and CEO of the New York Giants, went even further, saying his loyalty to Rooney “extends to just about anything.”

“There isn’t one person in the league who wants this to happen,” Mara said. “Everyone wants it to work out. Dan Rooney is the most respected owner in the league.”

Mara and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson are extremely close to Rooney, sitting with the Steelers chief at all NFL owners’ meetings.

Another owner, the Indianapolis Colts’ Jim Irsay, was more reticent, but said he would do all he could to keep the team in Rooney’s hands.

“There’s no man in that room who has more respect and pull than Dan Rooney,” Irsay, who spoke with Rooney about the future of the Steelers last month, added. “At the same time, the game’s bigger than all of us, and no one is going to do something that isn’t consistent with what is in the best interests of the National Football League and the sort of rules and different things that are set up.”

Still, if his brothers and relatives are dead-set on selling their stakes in the team for top dollar, there may be nothing Rooney can do to legally stop a takeover. At a minimum, it seems that Rooney would have to come up with between $28 million and $48 million to boost his stake in the team to 20% and convince his brothers to keep a 10% stake in the team. But Druckenmiller has said he is not interested in anything less than a controlling stake in the Steelers, so any bid for control by Rooney might lead him to walk away.

Druckenmiller, who lives in New York but is a die-hard Steelers fan, has said he would like the Rooneys to continue running the team if he does buy it.

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