While it’s understood that the Rooney family, who founded the Pittsburgh Steelers, has always owned the franchise, the reality is that they have had a fairly large pool of investors in their ownership group for the past decade or so. That was made a necessity with changes to the rules about who can own an NFL franchise, which resulted in multiple members of the Rooney family selling their shares in order to maintain their businesses in other avenues.
Among the original buyers in that initial opening was David Tepper, a Pittsburgh native who became a billionaire as a hedge fund manager. After he purchased the Carolina Panthers last year, he was required—for obvious reasons—to sell his shares in the Steelers.
That appears to have now officially taken place, as his shares—roughly five percent, by my understanding—are now in the hands of two new investors—and one old one.
It may not surprise you to learn that the new investors sport Pittsburgh ties, and I don’t mean what you wear around your neck. The first is Doug Lebda, a native of the city who was responsible for founding Lending Tree. The NC Revocable Trust, based in Pittsburgh, is the other new investor.
They do not account for the entirety of Tepper’s share, however. The remaining stock was acquired by Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc. This is the company that is responsible for operating the Steelers as a franchise, with Art Rooney II as its president. In other words, the deal put slightly more control by percentage of the franchise back in the hands of the Rooney family.
The Rooneys are the most universally respected family in football, having often acted as a moral compass for the league since 1933 with Art Rooney, The Chief, as its founder. The franchise was steered into more prosperous waters by his son, Dan Rooney, beginning in the 1970s, and now his son, Art Rooney II, is in charge.
Whenever this topic comes up, especially in light of Dan Rooney’s passing, the subject is always broached as to what will happen in the future with regards to the family’s control of the team. Basically, who is next in line?
Right now, there is no clear successor, but there is Daniel Martin Rooney, the son of Art II. He served as an assistant coach on the staff for a couple of years, but is now learning the trade from other angles. It may still be a long way away, but he is as likely as any to be the next in line.