SBD/October 17, 2012/Franchises

First Order Of Business: Browns' Haslam Brings In Banner As CEO, Announces Holmgren's Exit

Haslam (r) today introduces Banner as the the Browns new CEO
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III yesterday after the NFL owners formally approved his purchase of the team “wasted no time in making a bold announcement -- that team president Mike Holmgren is out and former Eagles President Joe Banner is in as Chief Executive Officer,” according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Holmgren, who is “three years into a five-year deal that pays him about $8 million a year, will remain through the season and then retire.” Banner was introduced at a news conference this morning at Browns HQ in Berea, Ohio, and will officially "take over" Oct. 25 when the sale of the team closes. Haslam said that Holmgren will “work closely with Banner until the end of the season to make sure there's a seamless transition.” Haslam said of Banner’s role, "Joe's going to be the CEO. He'll be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the company, but any big decisions, we'll be involved in." Haslam added, "This is the only personnel change we're going to make until the end of the season, and I'm not at all saying we're going to make changes at the end of the season.” Haslam's purchase of the Browns from former Owner Randy Lerner for $1B was “unanimously approved by the 32 NFL teams.” Lerner will "retain a 30 percent stake for four years” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/17). In Akron, Marla Ridenour writes Haslam’s hiring of Banner and settlement with Holmgren "was stunning only for its speed.” Haslam said that Banner had been “put through the same kind of extensive background check he used when hiring top executives at Pilot Flying J” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/17).

TURNING THE PAGE: In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote under the header, “Jimmy Haslam Scores A Touchdown In His First Day As Cleveland Browns Owner.” Holmgren's departure is “not a major loss, and Banner's executive skills could be a huge advantage.” Banner is a “salary cap guy, a business man and an experienced, high-level football executive.” While the Browns' “football people will report to Banner, his history is not that of a guy who tells a general manager who to draft in the third round” (CLEVELAND.com, 10/16). NBC Sports Network's Mike Florio said Haslam "didn’t need a surrogate owner in Mike Holmgren." Florio: "And really, what has Holmgren done to improve that team in the time that he’s been there?” (“Pro Football Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 10/16). The BEACON JOURNAL's Ridenhour writes Banner is "one thing Holmgren was not, a proven front-office executive” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/17). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole wrote Banner will “help Haslam focus on the football operations, such as deciding whether” GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur “should stay.” Cole: "But be very clear about that last sentence: Banner will help make that decision. When it was Holmgren and Lerner, Holmgren made the decision” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/16). ESPN’s John Clayton said, "Because of the fact that this team’s not winning there’s the likelihood after the season there’s going to be a lot of changes” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 10/16). FOXSPORTSOHIO.com's Jackson & McManamon cited sources as saying that Heckert has “told people close to him that he believes he'll lose his position with the team at the end of the season and that Heckert was making calls to friends around the league as early as August about potentially landing on another team's personnel staff in 2013” (FOXSPORTSOHIO.com, 10/16).

SQUARE PEG, ROUND HOLE? In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote Holmgren was “miscast here from the day Lerner let him pick his role.” Holmgren’s role with the Browns was “no longer what he signed up to do -- run his own franchise for an owner only too happy to shower him with cash and get out of the way.” The team has “a lot more immediate accountability than it did under Lerner.” Holmgren's “impending exit is proof of that” (CLEVELAND.com, 10/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Cole wrote the NFL “doesn't want guys like Holmgren in board rooms sitting in the owner's chair.” For his part, Holmgren was “always a little out of place at these events.” He was “a football man in a room full of guys who are concerned with how to monetize the game.” It “wasn't that Holmgren couldn't understand the dollar signs, but it's not what drives him” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/16). ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley noted the Browns' .263 winning percentage under Holmgren is the "second-worst" in the league during his tenure. Holmgren's “biggest mistake was keeping Eric Mangini around" for the '10 season, while hiring Heckert was Holmgren's "best move” (ESPN.com, 10/16). CBSSPORTS.com’s Jason La Canfora cited sources as saying that Holmgren has “no interest in pursuing other football ventures -- coaching or front office” (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/16). ESPN's Ed Werder said the “expectation is he'll resume his retirement in Seattle and he’ll count all of his many dollars that he's accumulated in recent years” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 10/16). The PLAIN DEALER's Cabot notes Haslam “declined to say if outgoing team president Mike Holmgren will receive the balance of his contract for 2013 and 2014, an estimated $16 million.” Haslam: “I'm not going to talk about that. It's been a very amicable situation with Mike" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/17).

OWNER'S EQUITY: Haslam said of his efforts to sell his Steelers stock, "We're real close to selling the majority of it and I think that will happen by the end of the month and I would (hope) that the balance will happen by the end of the year. 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, I completely divorced myself from the Steelers" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/17). Steelers President Art Rooney II said, “There will be (overlap) but we've sort of worked it out with the finance committee and the commissioner, where Jimmy won't have access to Steelers information during this time. It won't be a problem, but will it take a few months" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/16). Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the NFL “didn't encourage Randy Lerner to sell the Browns.” Goodell: "When Randy and his family made the decision that it was time for them to move on, it is time to move on. We assisted them in trying to achieve their objectives” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/17).

ROLLING OUT THE WELCOME MAT: Browns K Phil Dawson said, “This isn’t any kind of indictment on how things have been done previously, but (Haslam’s style is) very much welcomed and there’s a certain presence and a certain energy that he brings, a certain level of accountability just by his mere presence here. Has it been a distraction? No. Has it been welcomed? Yes” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/17). Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said Haslam “reminded me a little of myself coming in because he's so passionate and enthusiastic.” Kraft said that Haslam's “experience in building Pilot Flying J into a multi-billion enterprise will serve him well.” Kraft: "I think he'll lend us his business expertise. He has a different exposure to a marketplace that I'm not sure anyone else in our league does” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/17). 
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