Steelers looking to restructure team ownership

PITTSBURGH (AP) -Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and his son, team president Art Rooney II, want to buy other family members' shares to assure that one of the NFL's most storied franchises does not leave Rooney control.

In a statement Monday, the team said some of Dan Rooney's four brothers want to focus their business efforts on racetracks and other non-football interests. The brothers - Art Jr., Timothy, Patrick and John - all own an interest in the team as does another related family, the McGinleys, although it has only a small stake in the 75-year-old franchise.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has asked former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to represent the league in talks to reach an agreement on a separation of the gambling interests and the restructured ownership if part of the team is sold, according to the statement.

"For the past two years, the Rooney family has had discussions about a restructuring of the ownership of the Steelers in order to ensure compliance with the NFL ownership policies and the continuation of the Rooney family ownership and operation of the team," the team said in the statement.

Some family members apparently want to gauge if their shares would be worth more money if the club was sold outside the family.

The Steelers are one of the NFL's most successful franchises despite not winning any form of championship until their 40th season, a division title in 1972. The five-time Super Bowl champions have sold out all home game for the last 36 years and have one of the league's largest fan bases outside their own region, a national following rivaled by only a handful of NFL teams.

Dan Rooney is the eldest of team founder Art Rooney Sr.'s five sons and a Pro Football Hall of Fame owner who first worked for the team as a ballboy while in grade school.

"I have spent my entire life devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League," said Dan Rooney, one of the most influential owners in NFL history. "I will do everything possible to work out a solution to ensure my father's legacy of keeping the Steelers in the Rooney family and in Pittsburgh for at least another 75 years."

Art Rooney Jr., Dan's brother, was the Steelers' scouting director when the team had some of the best draft classes in NFL history in the 1970s, leading to a run of four Super Bowl championships in six seasons.

Dan and Art Jr. had a falling out in the late 1980s, with Art Jr. leaving the football side of the business. Art Jr. has since been involved in the Rooneys' real estate holdings, though he recently wrote a book focusing on his work for the Steelers.

Their father, Art Rooney Sr., was heavily involved in gambling and, according to legend, bought the Steelers in 1933 with $2,500 in racetrack winnings. But the NFL now frowns on any ownership association with gambling.

The Rooney family owns racetracks in New York and Florida and has added forms of gaming that are inconsistent with NFL gambling policy.

Art Rooney II says the discussions should have no affect on the team or its fans. The Steelers, who won the AFC North with a 10-6 record last season, open training camp July 27.

"There is no reason to believe that the current internal discussions will have any impact on our fans or on our team this season or in the seasons to come," Art Rooney II said.

The Rooney family has owned the team since its inception, except for a brief period in 1941 when Art Rooney Sr. sold the team to Alexis Thompson and bought into the Philadelphia Eagles. Rooney regained control of his hometown Steelers in less than a year.

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