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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Steel Curtain Rising Right on the Money on Rooney Reunion with Goodell

The five Rooney brothers met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the league’s Park Avenue offices, and afterwards Goodell described the meeting as positive and was optimistic that the Steelers ownership restructuring could be finished by year’s end.

Prior to the meeting, the Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette reported on the issues driving this round of the discussions/negotiations between the Rooney brothers. It would be far too presumptions (and almost certainly erroneous) to claim that Bouchette has been taking a peek at posts on this site, but Steel Curtain Rising did accurately identify each of the issues in play several weeks ago...

Role of the League

When the story broke in early July, a number of commentators suggested that the NFL might intervene on the side of Dan Rooney. As stated here on July 7th, the designation of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue showed that the league was very interested in the outcome of these negotiations.

Likewise, when the Goodell-Rooney meeting was set, we shared Steelers Digest editor Bob Labrolia’s observation that the league in fact wanted Dan and Art II to maintain control of the team.

Following today’s meeting with the Rooney brothers, Goodell had this to say:



"There's great respect for the Rooney family in the National Football League, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the Steelers continue to be operated by the Rooneys and the way they've been operated." [Emphasis added]
Words don’t get any more plain than that.

Not only is Goodell making his preference for Dan and Art II clear, he’s also not casting a favorable eye on billionare Stanley Druckenmiller’s promise to assume controlling interest yet retain Dan and Art II.

Also of interest is the fact that Goodell invited three other owners to the meeting “because ultimately NFL owners must approve by a 3/4 majority any change in the Steelers ownership.” The other owners attending were: New Orleans’s Tom Benson, Carolina’s Jerry Richardson, and Cincinnati’s Mike Brown.

Dan Rooney described Jerry Richardson as “a special friend” in his autobiography My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL, and Brown and Benson are consumate “old guard” NFL owners.

Goodell would have been sending a far different message had he invited Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, and Zygi Wilfwas….

Not Necessarily Four Against One...

Press reports conflict about how these negotiations are affecting relationships between the five Rooney brothers. The four brothers have already rejected two offers from Dan, but some sources have characterized this as a “family feud,” while others have indicated that this is something that is simply complex and difficult for all involved.

However, Bouchette’s article in this morning’s Post-Gazette moved toward confirming something that Steel Curtain Rising first hypothesized earlier this month – All four Rooney brothers might not be ready to get out of the football business.

That post was in response to another of Bouchette’s articles, which reported that Art Rooney Jr. was divesting himself of his shares in the race tracks, and that John Rooney, unlike his brothers Tim and Pat, had not resigned from the Steelers Board of Directors.

Art Jr’s divestiture of his shares in the racetracks could be part of his estate planning, but it would also clear the way for him to retain his shares in the team, perhaps in exchange for a renewed management role. (Dan fired Art Jr. head of scouting in 1986.)

John Rooney is heavily involved in the management of the Yonker’s Raceway, and the NFL is pushing for a resolution of this matter because of its anti-gambling policies. John's non-resignation at least suggests the possibility that John Rooney is exploring ways where he can perhaps maintain a reduced ownership stake in the team.

Its important to state, for honestly's sake, that suppositions made here about the league's role and the possiblity of some of the Rooney brother's not selling are are not the stuff of rocket science. However, one has to wonder why Bouchette would report about John and Art Jr.'s moves with out without reporting on their possible motives.

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