(Another in a series profiling the Steelers new investors.)
It often is said that it's a bad idea to mix business with pleasure. But when it came to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Peter Varischetti couldn't resist.
The Varischetti family has substantial involvement in many businesses, including Guardian Elder Care Holdings, Inc.; Varischetti & Sons, Inc.; Phoenix Sintered Metals, Inc.; and Apple Tractor, Inc., and all companies combined employ over 2,000 people.
That is a testament to the family's standing in the business world, and the fact the Varischetti's operations are headquartered in Brockway, located some 84 miles north of Pittsburgh helps explain their familiarity with the Steelers.
"We've always been huge Steelers fans, so when this opportunity presented itself, it seemed like a dream come true," Peter Varischetti, 39, said on behalf of his family when the deal with the Steelers was announced. "There was an opportunity to be able to do something, and it made sense for our family. It was a good fit for the Rooneys and the Varischettis."
Guardian Elder Care Holdings, Inc. has 23 nursing facilities, including 20 in Pennsylvania, two in Ohio and one in West Virginia.
Varischetti & Sons, Inc. owns and manages commercial real estate in Pennsylvania and New York and provides consultation services to the waste industry. The company's interest also includes VSI Racing, which competes on the Nationwide Series.
Phoenix Sintered Metals, Inc. is a manufacturer of powder metal parts serving many different industries. The company is a consolidation of assets from four local manufacturing plants in one central location in Brockway. And Apple Tractor Inc. is a major supplier of machinery for the construction and mining industries.
The Varischetti business history dates back to the 1960s when the late Frank Varischetti built Varischetti Sanitation into one of the largest independently owned sanitation companies in Pennsylvania, and the family is very active in community projects through the Frank Varischetti Foundation, which primarily serves the Brockway and DuBois areas.
"We always take into highest consideration the company's origin as a family-owned business," said Peter Varischetti. "We are respectful in all relationships, both internal and external, in order to preserve the values of honesty, integrity, loyalty and trust."
Varischetti recently took time to answer some Steelers-related questions:
Q. How did you come to be interested in joining the Steelers as an investor?
A. I read an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the summer of 2008 that certain members of the Rooney family were interested in selling their shares of the team and that Mr. (Dan) Rooney and Art II were evaluating different options to satisfy those members who wanted to sell their shares, while at the same time trying to maintain control of the franchise in the Rooney family. When I read that I thought it could potentially be a good investment opportunity for my family as well as an opportunity to help Mr. Rooney and Art II keep control of the franchise in the Rooney family.
Q. What was it about the Steelers that made the team a solid investment proposition?
A. Without a doubt, the Rooney Family and the way that Mr. Rooney and Art II have operated the organization with such class and integrity for so many years.
Q. Before you became an investor, were you a Steelers fan?
A. Yes. Growing up in Western Pennsylvania our family was made up of the quintessential Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Every Sunday afternoon during football season consisted of the family gathering around the TV to cheer on our beloved Steelers. Approximately 20 years ago, we were fortunate to be able to purchase season tickets.
Q. Are you a Steelers fan now, or is your relationship with the team more about business?
A. Definitely a Steelers fan first. On the business side, Mr. Rooney's and Art II's track record speaks for itself. The Pittsburgh Steelers are arguably the most successfully run sports franchise in the world. The Rooneys have consistently surrounded themselves with the best coaches, players and front office personnel. I believe the Rooneys have continued the trend of surrounding themselves with the best by the quality of the individuals they brought in as new investors.
Q. Do you watch all of the games?
A. Yes, with the exception of games that are scheduled at times when my children have significant activities or other family events.
Q. What kind of a fan are you when you're watching a Steelers game? Vocal? Critical? Nervous? Enthusiastic?
A. At times, all the above. I really enjoy watching the particulars of the game, like blocking assignments, different pass coverages, etc. I also like trying to determine what calls the coaches will make in certain situations.
Q. What current Steelers player do you enjoy watching the most?
A. That's a tough one. I enjoy watching several different players and appreciating their specific abilities. Ben Roethlisberger's ability to lead; Hines Ward's passion for the game and his ability to play at such a high level for so many years and having fun at the same time; James Harrison's non-stop motor and his all-business attitude on the field; and Troy Polamalu's ability to do things on the field that no one else can do.
I also enjoy watching what the players do off the field. What they give back speaks volumes about their character. Charlie Batch's Best of the Batch Foundation that helps underprivileged youth, and The Max Starks Fund that helps promote childhood literacy and education are just two of the many foundations or charitable organizations where Steelers players are intimately involved.