How Pittsburgh Steelers Owner Dan Rooney Made His $500 Million Fortune

By on October 1, 2015 in ArticlesSports News

How cool would it be as a kid to grow up having an inside look at the inner workings of a professional football franchise? How much cooler would it be to know that one day, when you get older, it would actually be your team? If you really want to know, just ask current Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. Dan Rooney inherited the team from his father, Art Rooney, when he passed away in 1988, but the story of how his father came to own the team is pretty interesting.

Back in 1933, Art Rooney paid the $2,500 franchise fee ($45,811 today) to found a team in Pittsburgh. As the legend goes, he got the money after winning a parlay at the track. There is some doubt as to whether the story is true, but no one has been able to discount it. The story doesn't end there.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Football wasn't the cash cow back then that it is today, so when he won another parlay, this time for $160,000, he used it to fund the team until he sold it in 1941 to a New York playboy by the name of Alex Thompson. With the money he made from the sale he bought 70 percent of the Philadelphia Eagles. The other 30 percent belonged to future NFL commissioner Bert Bell.

However, when he heard that Thompson wanted to move the team to Boston so he could be within a five hour train ride from it, he offered to switch teams with Thompson (who took the deal). When Bell was named commissioner in 1946, Rooney got him to sell his shares to his sister's father in law, Barney McGinley.

Side Trivia: Actresses Rooney Mara (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Social Net Worth) and Kata Mara (House Of Cards) are sisters. That's not the side trivia. The side trivia is that Dan Roney is Kate and Rooney's great-grandfather. Dan's eldest son Art Rooney II is the father of Kathleen McNulty Rooney. Kathleen is the mother of Kate and Rooney Mara. But that's not all! Their other grandfather is Tim Mara, founder of the NY Giants. Their uncle John is the President of the Giants today. Their dad Chris Mara is VP of the Giants today.

Since he was a kid, Dan had wanted nothing more than to work with the team. Over the years, he worked with the organization in many facets until being named President in 1975, a position he turned over to his son, Art Rooney II, in 2003.

It wasn't until 2008 that Dan became the majority holder in the team. When his dad passed away in 1988, he left each of his five sons an equal share of the team: 16 percent (so somewhere along the way he must have bought 10 percent from McGinley).

Dan had been in talks with his brothers for a couple years in an effort to get them to sell their shares to him. They had been wanting to get out of the NFL business so they could focus on running their racetracks and casinos. There were rumors that other buyers wanted his brother's shares, but in the end, they opted to keep majority ownership within the family and his four brothers each sold their 16 percent share to Dan, giving him 80 percent of the team.

So, how did he make his $500 million fortune? He owns a majority of one of the most successful football teams of all time, and it all started with just $2,500 in winnings from the racetrack. Must be nice!

Articles Written by Travis Pulver
Travis, a native Texan, has been blogging about sports for the last seven years. His passion is bringing the best and most interesting stories to light for the enjoyment of the public. He currently lives in Indiana (loves basketball, but hates going to the Indy 500) with his wife and two adorable kids. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and check out his website FatManWriting.com.
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