CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has exuded an energy that Cleveland hasn’t felt from an owner of a team since, well, 2005.
That’s when Dan Gilbert, a billionaire from Detroit, bought the up and coming Cavaliers from Gordon Gund for $375 million.
Flash forward to 2012 where a billionaire from Tennessee has purchased Cleveland’s most precious and prized possession – the Browns from the Lerner family trust for a whopping $1.05 billion.
Gilbert said Tuesday prior the the Cavaliers opener with Washington that he recently spoke by phone for over 45 minutes with Haslam to welcome him to Cleveland.
“I told him how great Cleveland is and how great the support here is,” Gilbert said. “That’s just a fact and I think he knew some of that despite coming from the Steelers ownership group.
“He’s very passionate.”
There are a few parallels between Gilbert and Haslam.
Not only are they both very successful businessmen but the situations which they walked into with their respective teams are eerily similar.
Shortly after taking over the Cavaliers in March of 2005, Gilbert cleaned house.
He fired coach Paul Silas with 18 games to play then canned general manager Jim Paxson the day after the 2004-05 season ended.
Gilbert hired former Cav Danny Ferry as GM to build around LeBron James and rookie coach Mike Brown to groom him into a 2-time NBA MVP before he took his talents elsewhere.
Under Ferry and Brown, the Cavaliers made 5 straight playoff appearances with James and won 1 Eastern Conference title and 2 Central Division championships.
Cleveland has welcomed Haslam with open arms in the never ending hope that he will now be able to finally resurrect the sad-sack Browns from the basement of the NFL.
Like Gilbert, who bought the Cavaliers in the upswing of the most successful era in franchise history, Haslam purchased the Browns in the midst of a rebuild which actually appears headed in the right direction with rookies Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson.
“He seems to be a great guy and seems to be what Cleveland needs,” Gilbert said. “He’s very passionate. He definitely wants to win. That’s his focus.”
Since the ownership change was announced, there has been rampant speculation that Haslam will also clean house – general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur are all but shown the door already according to the national pundits.
Since 2005, Gilbert has transformed the Cavaliers home – Quicken Loans Arena – named after his namesake company that made him a billionaire, from the dungeon of the NBA into a vibrant venue that doesn’t look it’s 19 years of age.
Gilbert has spent nearly $35 million to renovate the locker rooms, suites, concourses, scoreboards (a new scoreboard is in the works for the 2013-14 season), replace the seats and the building will debut a state of the art WiFi system later this season.
Haslam looks to do his own home remodel of Cleveland Browns Stadium to make it a premiere venue in the NFL.
Unlike Gilbert, who has built a Quicken Loans office, bought the Lake Erie Monsters, Cleveland Gladiators and opened a Casino in Cleveland, Haslam won’t be setting up many business ventures in town.
Haslam’s focus will be solely on running the Browns and Gilbert says that’s just fine but he did have a word or 2 of advice for him.
“Remember that it’s not like any other business because everything you do is in the public eye,” Gilbert said. “You do things in other businesses and it’s not so public. Don’t underestimate that part of it.”
Where the Browns are concerned truer words could not have been spoken any better.
Haslam has been in plain sight, which is a welcome change from the last 10 years, but from here on out his every move will be watched, scrutinized, analyzed and criticized.
The Cavaliers hit the lottery – literally, and in Gilbert’s eyes, the Browns have too.