SBD/August 3, 2012/Franchises

Haslam To Pay Lerner $1B For Browns, With Final Payment Not Due For Four Years

Steelers investor Jimmy Haslam III has reached a deal to buy the Browns for $1B
Pilot Travel Centers President & CEO and Steelers investor Jimmy Haslam III “reached an agreement with Randy Lerner to buy the Browns on Thursday,” according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Haslam will buy the Browns “for about $1 billion -- $700 million now and $300 million when he buys out Lerner's remaining 30 percent, which will take place on the fourth anniversary of the closing date.” Haslam, who was expected to “watch practice Friday morning and be introduced at a 1 p.m. press conference in Berea, wants to re-assure fans that the franchise isn't going anywhere.” Haslam said, "We're not moving the Cleveland Browns.” He added, “Randy had four things he wanted and I won't share all of them, but No. 1 was we keep them in Cleveland. Why would we move?" Haslam's “No. 1 promise is he's here to restore the Browns to its old championship luster.” Haslam: "I met Randy for the first time on Monday, July 2, that's how fast this has gone. We thought it was an unbelievable opportunity and we checked with four or five people that have been involved in the NFL for a long, long time and everybody told us -- it was our instinct anyway -- that if you have a chance to get the Cleveland Browns, jump all over it." Haslam said that his family will “maintain their primary residence in Knoxville.” But he added, "We're going to be in Cleveland frequently, and we're going to be active in the community” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/3). In Akron, Nate Ulich notes Lerner will “retain part of the team at the onset as a method to pay money owed to former coaches and executives of the franchise.” NFL ownership “could vote on Haslam’s purchase during its next scheduled meeting in October, or Commissioner Roger Goodell could call for a special meeting to be held as early as this month to push the deal through sooner.” NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in an e-mail said, “No special meeting has been scheduled. It’s possible but too early in the process to determine” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/3).

ON THE AGENDA: Haslam added, “We're very excited to be in Cleveland because we know [how] important football is here and how serious they take football. This is a great football city. That's what excites us about this opportunity" (ESPN.com, 8/2). The PLAIN DEALER’s Cabot in a separate piece cited league sources as saying that former Eagles President Joe Banner “will join Jimmy Haslam in Cleveland once the sale is approved.” Banner resigned as Eagles President “on June 7th to pursue the challenge of part-ownership in an NFL team.” If Banner assumes the title of President, “it most likely spells the end of Mike Holmgren in Cleveland.” Holmgren is in the “third year of a five-year deal with the Browns that pays him $8 million a year.” He said Thursday that he would “like to stay on, and feels the Browns are on the verge of becoming a winning team” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/3). Holmgren said that he “spoke with Haslam by phone on Wednesday night.” Holmgren said that he has also “known Banner for a long time.” Asked if he felt he could work with Banner, Holmgren said, "You know what, I'm not going to go there right now." He said that he had “no assurances" from Lerner (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/3).

FAIR DEAL: ESPN.com’s Kristi Dosh cited experts as saying that the sale is “a fair deal for all involved, with room for Haslam to get a good return on his investment in the future.” The sale is “on par with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ purchase earlier this year for $760 million.” Forbes lists the Jaguars as the NFL’s “lowest-valued team at $725 million,” while the Browns “come in at $977 million, good enough for 20th in the league” (ESPN.com, 8/2). ESPN’s Andrew Brandt said NFL owners "across the league are smiling” over the $1B sale price. Brandt: “It’s a good time to sell a franchise. Record TV contracts hit in next year, there’s a labor agreement in place for the next nine years (and) player costs are at an all-time low.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said if an NFL team with multiple Super Bowl championships, like the Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers or Patriots, would be sold, “you’d be talking Los Angeles Dodgers territory” in terms of the sale price. ESPN’s Trey Wingo: “Remember the fighting we had last summer between the players and the owners and the lockout, tough economic times for the NFL and all that. Yeah, not so much" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 8/2).
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