Truck stop magnate Jimmy Haslam III was introduced as the Cleveland Browns new owner at a press conference on Friday, August 3. Haslam reportedly purchased the team for around $1 billion.
Last year Forbes estimated the Browns to be the 20th most valuable franchise in the NFL at around $977 million. By comparison the Miami Dolphins were purchased for around the same price in 2009.
The Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 after the old Cleveland Browns franchise was moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Ravens. Browns fans do not need to worry about history repeating itself though as Haslam said there is “zero chance” that he will move the team out of Cleveland.
New ownership might have fans excited considering the Browns have only made the playoffs once since 1999 and had only two winning seasons. Their overall record is only 68-140 since returning to the NFL.
Haslam was previously a minority owner with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He will have to sell his ownership in the Steelers and receive approval from 24 out of the 32 other NFL owners before the sale is finalized. A vote is expected to come within the next few months.
“I took my Steelers watch off yesterday and put on a Browns watch today,” said Haslam at his press conference, according to ESPN.com.
Besides being the new owner of the Browns, Haslam is the president and CEO of Pilot Flying J, which is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Haslam has locations in 43 states, with the majority being in Ohio. He also has locations in Canada.
Reportedly, previous owner Randy Lerner will sell 70 percent of the team to Haslam now, and the remaining 30 percent will revert to him in four years, although details of the sale have not been officially released yet.
Lerner’s late father Al purchased the Browns franchise from the NFL in 1998 for $530 million. Last week it was announced that Lerner, who owns the Aston Villa soccer team in the English Premier League, was looking to sell the franchise.
While the Browns franchise is not moving, its coaching staff might be if they do not improve on their 4-12 record in 2011. New owners tend to want a fresh start with their own selected management and coaching staff.
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur does not seem concerned.
“I have no fear about any of that because I trust my coaches, I trust the players and I’ve watched the work they’ve done based on the conversation of this last week,” Shurmur said Thursday, August 2, according to ESPN.com. “I think we’re moving full steam ahead. That doesn’t bother me one bit at this point. My concern is getting this team ready to play and our players understand that message and they are doing a good job.”
With the Browns not making any substantial moves to their roster in the offseason it is tough to see them having a positive turn around in the tough AFC North in 2012. However, with an excited new owner bright days could be coming for Browns fans that have been waiting over half a century for another NFL championship.