CHICAGO (92.3 The Fan) – NFL owners approved the sale of the Cleveland Browns to Jimmy Haslam Tuesday morning in Chicago.
Randy Lerner, who inherited the team from his father in October of 2002, announced the deal with Haslam on Aug. 2 and owners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to approve the transaction.
“We’ve always heard what a great football town Cleveland is, and what we’ve experienced is nothing short of phenomenal,” Haslam said. “The Browns are truly one of the iconic NFL brands. It’s a very special place.
“I feel very privileged to now own the team.”
Haslam, who was greeted with a loud round of applause as he entered the conference room, assumes a 70 percent controlling interest in the team with Lerner retaining a 30 percent stake up till the 4-year anniversary of the closing of the sale. Haslam will then be permitted to purchase the remaining stake in the team.
“He’s a wonderful guy who we’ve known for quite a while,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “He wants to make sure that the Cleveland Browns are represented the right way, that they’re going to have a winning franchise and that they’re a big part of the community. That’s great news for the fans.”
The total value of the deal is an estimated $1 billion.
Since the announced sale, Haslam has been visible at practice and at every game. His presence has been a welcomed site among players and will continue.
“What you’ll see us with a very visible presence,” Haslam said. “We’re going to be in Cleveland a lot. This is the second-largest investment we have. We think it’s important for ownership to be present and be involved.”
Former Eagles president Joe Banner was named the CEO of the Browns effective Oct. 25 replacing Mike Holmgren as the top executive.
Holmgren will retire at the end of the season.
“Mike was brought in to do a certain role, and he didn’t want to have a different role,” Haslam said. “I can’t stress enough that we have a good relationship. In 2 to 3 years, I’ll feel comfortable calling him, and I think he’ll help.”
Holmgren will assist Banner and Haslam with the transition of ownership and executive duties.
“Joe [Banner] and Mike [Holmgren] will work together over the next 3 or 3 ½ months to help transition in seamless fashion to bring a winner to the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam said. “We couldn’t have two better people to help us with this transition.”
Haslam told general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur over the weekend that bringing in Banner is the only move that will be made in relation to personnel for the remainder of the season.
“No decisions have been made,” Haslam said. “I’m comfortable saying that. These men are big boys. They understand the profession they’re in. Pat and I have a good relationship. The timing of us coming in at training camp was not good.”
Holmgren did not make the scheduled trip to the meetings. He had been representing Lerner and the franchise on league business since officially taking over as team president in January, 2010.
Executive Vice President – Business Bryan Wiedmeier cast the vote on behalf of Lerner and the Browns.
Haslam owns a 12 percent minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers and he is in the process of divesting his interest in the team.
“Jimmy Haslam and his family have been great partners in he Steelers ownership for the past 3 years,” Art Rooney II said. “I am sorry he will be leaving our ownership group but I am happ the National Football League is going to have a strong new owner. I am sure the Haslam family will bring constructive and able ownership to the Browns.”
An arrangement has been worked out the the Steelers as well as NFL prohibiting Haslam’s access to organizational and business information he was privy to while a minority owner of the team.
“We’re real close to selling the majority of it, and I think that’ll happen by the end of the month and I would hope that the balance would happen by the end of the year,” Haslam said. “Art Rooney and the Steelers want to see it happen. We want to see it happen. Once I told Art we were negotiating with Randy, we’ve completely divorced myself from the Steelers, so it’s just a matter of getting the financial transaction done. We hope to have that done by the end of the year if not sooner.”
With the approval now out of the way, Haslam is clear to complete the deal with Lerner. It’s expected that he will take control of the team by month’s end.