Reporting Daryl Ruiter
Updated: 7/27/2012 at 6:47 pm.
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - Another season, more changes for the Cleveland Browns.
President Mike Holmgren confirmed that owner Randy Lerner is in the process of selling the team.
Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam III entered into negotiations with Lerner earlier this summer and the two sides are close to finalizing the deal which could top $1 billion.
“The club is in negotiations with a buyer, an investor,” Holmgren said. “Randy’s No. 1 concern has been that it not become a distraction for the coaching staff and the players. We’re in the business of winning football games and we have a good young team that I think is on the verge of becoming what you all have wanted.”
Holmgren would not elaborate as to whether or not Lerner would retain any ownership in the club.
“What I can say is that he is giving up a controlling interest in the team,” Holmgren said. “That’s what I can say. As details come out we will be able to elaborate a little bit more. It is a controlling interest.”
A source said that Lerner would be giving up 100 percent of the franchise in the sale to Haslam’s group.
When the sale will become final has yet to be determined but Holmgren added that they are following the protocols set forth by the NFL for approval.
Haslam is the current president and CEO of Pilot Flying J and brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. He is also a minority investor in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Before acquiring the Browns, Haslam must sell his minority stake in the Steelers per league rules.
Lerner has also received assurances from Haslam that the Browns will not move once the sale is finalized as a condition of the transaction.
“It’s my understanding that from the get-go, that is one of the stipulations and both principles understand that,” Holmgren said. “The Cleveland Browns aren’t going anywhere. The Cleveland Browns are the Cleveland Browns and they are going to stay.”
Holmgren stressed that keeping the Browns in Cleveland and the sale of the franchise from being a distraction on the field is a priority for Lerner.
“He has a deep love for this team,” Holmgren said. “He’s been with the team since his father passed away and been running it and trying his best to do the right things. I think as his kids have gotten older and his life has changed a little bit. He just thought, and if the right person, he was very, very concerned with the right person stepping forward and if he was going to sell the team, and apparently all the stars aligned in the last few months.”
As for his own future with the new ownership group, Holmgren did his best to deflect any speculation.
“My future is bright,” Holmgren joked. “That will be answered probably down the road and you control the things you can control and do the best you can. I think we’ve done a lot of great things here in getting to this point, but we will see.”
Holmgren is entering the third year of a 5-year contract that he signed in January of 2010 and he plans on staying until he’s asked to leave.
“To me, a contract is a contract,” Holmgren said. “I have said that before and I try to be honest with you about that. We’ll deal with those things as we go down the road. Right now I am the president of the team and that’s how I am operating.”
Howard Eskin of NBC 10 in Philadelphia, who first reported on June 7 that the Browns were on the block, reports that former Eagles President Joe Banner is a part of Haslam’s group.
Banner left as Eagles president this year and worked with Browns general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur in Philadelphia.
Should Banner indeed be a part of the new ownership group, it’s conceivable that Holomgren’s days in Cleveland could be numbered.