Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney asked Arthur Andersen Accounting to put a price tag on the team as early as 1999 because of a “potential corporate restructuring as well as estate planning,” according to court documents filed last year.
That day of reckoning didn’t happen in 1999, but it seems to be playing out now in a family feud pitting Dan Rooney against his four brothers, Art Jr., Thomas, John and Patrick Rooney, each of whom owns 16 percent of the club.
“It’s not that the succession problem wasn’t spoken about, because it was. You’ve got to remember that we’re fans, and we thought we had plenty of time. In 1999, we weren’t ready to do this, but now there’s a perfect storm that’s bringing it to us,” said Art Rooney Jr., the former scouting genius who sculpted the squad in the 1970s that won four of the franchise’s five Super Bowls.
The “perfect storm” looming for the five brothers is part estate taxes — threatening to gobble nearly half of the franchise’s assets — part NFL mandate to divest from ancillary gambling operations and part concern for the third and fourth generations of Rooneys. Art Rooney Jr. says each of the brothers feels the ancestral, Irish tug to do right for their children but also a sacred duty to follow the dying wish of their Hall of Fame father, Art Rooney Sr., who founded the franchise in 1933.