Druckenmiller withdraws offer for Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- A billionaire suitor withdrew his offer to buy a majority stake of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, saying the Rooney family needs more time to consider its options about the future ownership of the team.

Stanley Druckenmiller issued a statement Thursday night saying he "removed himself from the process" and that it is clear that the Rooney family, which owns the Steelers, needs more time to consider its options.

The Rooney family approached Druckenmiller seven months ago about buying their shares of the team to help resolve estate planning and NFL ownership matters, Druckenmiller said.

At least three of the five Rooney brothers, sons of team founder Art Rooney Sr., want to sell their equal shares. Dan Rooney - who has run the team since the early 1970s - also owns only 16 percent himself.

Druckenmiller said he made it clear throughout the discussions that if the family could resolve its problems internally, he would step away.

"Based on recent developments, it has become clear that the Rooneys need substantial additional time to assess their options," Druckenmiller said in a statement. "I do not wish to complicate these efforts, and I also do not want the lingering uncertainty about my possible involvement to become a distraction to my business and my family."

Earlier Thursday, Art Rooney Jr. said he expected a deal to sell the team be done soon.

"My feeling on that is, if you want to do something right, you don't want to do it on a timeline," Art Rooney Jr. said. "Although these things do stretch on, I thought we'd have some kind of understanding by the preseason, and now we're coming up on the third game of the season and you don't want it to drag out."

Rooney did not return messages seeking comment on Druckenmiller's withdrawal.

"After all this time we put in it, it's the appropriate time that we should start making a decision," Rooney said.

At least three of the five Rooney brothers want to sell their equal shares in the team partly to avoid costly future inheritance taxes for their children and grandchildren. The McGinley family, cousins to the Rooneys, owns the other 20 percent and is reportedly not interested in selling shares.

Dan Rooney and son Art Rooney II, the team president, are attempting to buy enough shares to be the primary owners. But their two previous offers are believed to be for less money than the other four Rooney brothers could sell for on the open market.

The NFL has rules that restricts owners' involvement in gambling enterprises, and requires that one person own at least 30 percent of a team. Some of the brothers own shares of racetracks that now offer casino gaming.

Dan Rooney and the Steelers have repeatedly refused comment on the negotiations.

The four brothers have hired the investment firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to calculate the value of their shares, while Dan Rooney has turned to Morgan Stanley for guidance in the matter. Goldman Sachs estimates that one of the NFL's most successful franchises could be worth as much as $1.2 billion. Forbes earlier this month estimated the team's value at just over $1 billion.

Art Rooney Jr. said his brothers are consulting their financial advisers on Thursday and again Friday.

A sale of the team must be approved by 24 of the league's 32 owners.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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