After weeks of denying reports that the Browns were for sale, team owner Randy Lerner now acknowledges that Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam, currently a minority owner of the Steelers, is in discussions to purchase the team.
Multiple reports indicate the deal is close, and that the Browns will not move from Cleveland once the team is sold.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that “an unconditional guarantee was given that the Browns would not move before talks could even start,” according to a source.
Lerner said in a statement that he was in negotiations with Haslam, who is president of the Pilot Flying J Travel Centers, the country’s largest retail operator or travel centers and truck stops.
“In connection with current rumors and press inquiries, I can report that I've been approached by Mr. Jimmy Haslam, who is interested in making an investment in the Cleveland Browns,” the statement read. “We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private. Given that any transaction would require League approval, care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season. We will share further details or make an announcement if it becomes necessary.”
Howard Eskin of NBC 10 in Philadelphia is also reporting that he has heard former Eagles president Joe Banner, who recently stepped down from his position with the team, is involved in the group trying to purchase the Browns. If Banner is indeed involved, it could make current Browns president Mike Holmgren’s situation somewhat murky.
How much the Browns would fetch in a sale remains to be seen, but Forbes recently ranked the team the 30th most valuable sports franchise in the world at an estimated value of $977 million.