SBD/October 15, 2012/Franchises

New Browns Owner Haslam Preparing To Be More Hands On With Franchise

Haslam has been talking about owning an NFL team "for 10 or 15 years"
NFL owners will approve Jimmy Haslam III's $1B purchase of the Browns tomorrow in Chicago, and yesterday's 34-24 win over the Bengals "marked the changing of the guard," according to Marla Ridenour of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. Current Browns Owner Randy Lerner "did not make a postgame locker room appearance; presumably he did not attend." Lerner "returned to his home in Long Island after the sale of the team was announced Aug. 2 and has not been seen since." In the closing seconds of yesterday's game, Haslam "watched from just outside the Browns' tunnel" and when the game ended, he "shook hands with two well-wishers and headed to the locker room." Browns WR Josh Cribbs said of Haslam, "He's really hands-on. He's down there greeting the fans, greeting the players. We love to see that because he cares. Not saying that past regimes didn't, but you all know" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/15).

A LONG TIME COMING: Haslam said that he had been "talking with his father and brother Bill, now governor of Tennessee, about owning an NFL team 'for 10 or 15 years.'" Those close to Haslam believe that his "humor and business acumen make him the perfect choice to rebuild the storied franchise." U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said of Haslam, "Jimmy is a powerful figure. He’s very intense. That would be the word I would use to describe him more than anything else" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/14). ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said Browns President Mike Holmgren “has the unique position of sitting in on the league meetings that he knows will soon send him packing when owners approve the sale of the team.” Haslam has “intensively researched the organization he will revamp, seeking counsel from a group that has included former Packers GM Ron Wolf who gave Holmgren his first head coaching job, and former Colts GM Bill Polian who will not join the organization despite some discussions that considered the possibility” (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 10/14). SI’s Peter King said Haslam is “going to have to make his first big decision: What do I do with Pat Shurmur as coach, what do I do with Tom Heckert as General Manager and what do I do with Lord Mike Holmgren?” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 10/12).

WINNING WITH HEART: In Cleveland, Robert Smith wrote Haslam "brings a reputation for winning and winning the right way." Many see a "business titan with a heart." Univ. of Tennessee College of Business Administration Dean Jan Williams said of the Haslam family, "They really do the right things, the right way, and treat people right." Greater Knoxville Business Journal Editor Amy Nolan said, "The family and the company have just been very generous, very down to earth. They are accessible people." However, Smith wrote the Haslams "mix politics and business and they wield their money and influence to favor Republicans, which could draw scowls in Democratic-leaning Northeast Ohio." Having risen "to the top of a competitive industry, the Haslams have at times been accused of crossing the line from aggressive to ruthless." Knoxville-based Cornish Global Advisors President & CEO Jeff Cornish said, "He's a guy who asks a lot of questions. He keeps incredible tabs on everything. Not much gets by him." Haslam said, "The same basic philosophies that you have used in business apply to football. Now, there are strategies and tactics in any business, but it's still all about execution. Strategy is important, but execution is way more important." Haslam: "My dad used to say, 'Before you make a decision, think about how you would feel to see it in the newspaper the next day'" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/13).

ALL IN THE FAMILY: In Cleveland, Jodie Valade writes Haslam's wife, Dee, may be able to use "her marketing and branding expertise to heighten the Browns' profile and image." That effort "almost certainly will include a heavy focus on charity work." Dee Haslam said, "We're not doing this for a hobby. We're all in" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/15).
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