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Sale of Team will trigger review of Heinz Field Funding

Postby thesteelhammer » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:14 pm

Looks like the politicians are going to want a piece of the action also.

PITTSBURGH -- Allegheny County Controller Mark Flaherty says the Pittsburgh Steelers may have to reimburse taxpayers for public money used to build Heinz Field if the team is sold.

The new stadium opened in 2001 with the Steelers contributing about $76.5 million and state and county taxpayers paying $281 million.

Flaherty says he sent a letter to the team's owners saying a new stadium funding agreement must be struck if the team is sold.

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney is haggling with his four brothers over ownership of the team. Each brother owns 16 percent of the team and another family owns the rest. The other brothers are said to want more money than Dan Rooney is willing to pay for their shares, leading both sides to look for investors who might buy part of the team.

On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, the chairman of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Capital Management, is interested only in purchasing a majority share of the team from the four Rooney brothers. The newspaper said that according to a source with knowledge of Druckenmiller's dealings with the brothers, he will not get into a bidding war if the shares of the team are opened to public bid.

According to the report, Druckenmiller is involved solely in financial discussion with the four Rooney brothers -- Art Jr., Tim, Patrick and John -- and is not part of the plan team majority owners Dan Rooney and his son, Art II, have put forward to retain control of the franchise.

Druckenmiller has reportedly had discussions with Dan Rooney about him remaining in control of the franchise if Druckenmiller becomes majority owner.

Analysts have put the franchise's value at between $800 million and $1.2 billion. Team
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Re: Sale of Team will trigger review of Heinz Field Funding

Postby thesteelhammer » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:45 pm

Or maybe not :?

Outside sale OK in Steelers' lease
Flaherty still insists public has a role
Thursday, July 17, 2008
By Timothy McNulty, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Though Allegheny County Controller Mark Flaherty says the Steelers' lease for Heinz Field gives the city and county oversight of team ownership changes -- and could require a buyer outside the Rooney family to pay back more than $200 million in public stadium subsidies -- that does not seem to be what the lease agreement says in full.

In a letter to the Steelers' ownership and during a news conference yesterday, Flaherty pointed to a part of the 2000 lease agreement saying changes and transfers in team ownership are acceptable within the Rooney and McGinley families without getting consent by the Sports & Exhibition Authority.

Another part of the lease, which the controller did not address, speaks directly to outside ownership changes -- and says they are acceptable, with no input from the city-county agency either, as long as the sale conforms to NFL rules, and the SEA is notified once a sale is completed.

A section of the agreement titled "Ownership and Control" says "any change in the ownership of the capital stock of the Lessee [the Steelers] or any change in the ownership of the franchise will be made in accordance with the financial and ownership criteria and standards of the NFL ... The Lessee agrees that upon entering into any commitment to sell or transfer the franchise, the Lessee shall provide written notification to the Commonwealth and the Authority."

The agreement also says repeatedly the team cannot be moved from Heinz Field for the duration of the 291/2 year lease, and if the team is sold, new owners also are barred from relocating.

Flaherty issued his warning to Steelers shareholders -- Rooney brothers Art Jr., Dan, John, Pat and Tim, who share 80 percent of the team, and the McGinley family, which has 20 percent -- after learning of ongoing talks among the Rooneys about selling their team shares, perhaps to Steelers chairman Dan Rooney or to outside investors.

Since the value of the Steelers franchise has tripled in some estimates since the publicly financed Heinz Field was built, Flaherty argued that taxpayers should be involved in sales talks and local government is due some portion of sale proceeds.

"That's the argument I'm making to the shareholders. While they're working through their discussions and negotiations, don't forget about the partnership that existed originally when you came to us and asked for us to be a partner with you in your stadium -- and through that partnership, the value of your franchise, your investment, has significantly increased.

"And I just think that the public deserves a seat at the table in any type of negotiation discussions in what's going to happen to the franchise," he told reporters.

Flaherty is close friends with Steelers business director Mark Hart and attended high school with Arthur Rooney III, Art Jr.'s son, among other family connections. Asked if he was trying to pressure the family away from selling to an outsider -- by demanding a repayment of public subsidies and saying he might sue the team -- he said he was only acting as the county's fiscal watchdog.

"That's the really hard part of the situation ... you have to put the emotions and friendships aside and do what's best for the taxpayers, and that's what I feel I'm doing," he said.

Flaherty said he knew of no precedents of a government body sharing in the sales proceeds of a privately owned sports franchise.

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