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Volume 24 No. 113


Browns CEO Joe Banner "spoke for more than an hour on the state of the franchise" in a Q&A with Terry Pluto of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Pluto wrote of Banner, "The most impressive part was the clarity of his plan to build the team" (, 7/21).  The following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: Does all the losing worry you?
Banner: No. Nor does it scare me. That's because everything not right is fixable, and everything out of your control is very good. ... The things you can't control are so positive. The fan base is passionate. The market wants you to succeed so much. The media can create a lot of excitement if you are going well. If you do things right, you can attract coaches and players here. These things are not present in every NFL city.

Q: How did you see the Browns when you were running the Philadelphia Eagles?
Banner: We viewed Cleveland as a totally untapped, phenomenal football market. The opportunity to do something special is here, but it seems no one has been able to seize it.

Q: Why can that change?
Banner: If you look at teams that have made significant turnover in their front office and coaching staff, you know fairly quickly if they are on the right track. It's not too long that some of the wins start to come ... that's different than thinking you're on the right track, but the wins aren't starting to follow.

Q: What is the goal [in making several changes in the front office and coaching staff]?
Banner: Some people are intimidated about setting the bar really high. We want to build a Super Bowl team. For some people, that's too much pressure. And some people may say, "You won five games, what are you talking about the Super Bowl for?"

Q: Someone has the final word [in the draft room], right?
Banner: Unambiguously, the answer is me. No matter if I'm making the decision or those we employ are making it, I'm accountable. I'm perfectly willing to take the blame. Hopefully, it goes well, and (everyone) gets some credit.

Q: Do you understand why some fans are nervous about the FBI investigation in [Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III]'s Pilot Flying J?
Banner: I know why people would be unsettled by it. But at the same time, fans can trust what we said about it.

Q: How does this impact the Browns?
Banner: As it relates to the day-to-day operation of running the Browns, it will be unaffected by it.

Q: Even though Haslam will have to pay millions in lawsuits and legal fees?
Banner: Nothing is going to happen that will alter that vision or affect our ability to run the franchise.

Q: Is the team for sale?
Banner: The team is not for sale (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/21).

VET AFFAIRS:'s Mike Ozanian reported Haslam tomorrow is "likely going to have to testify about what he knew about the massive fraud committed by his company." Ozanian: "You think the NFL is trying to figure out who could replace Haslam this very moment?" The people who "can afford to come up with" the amount of money needed to buy an NFL or MLB franchise "often push pedal to the metal in their business dealings." That makes them "more likely to be probed, looked into and perhaps, ultimately, investigated by the law." As team values "go up, the vetting process of prospective team buyers will become more challenging for league commissioners" (, 7/20).

The Dolphins' new season-ticket sales "have been stagnant" this offseason despite the fact that the club has "made 10,000 calls to potential season-ticket customers every week and boasts a 75 percent renewal mark with last year’s purchasers -- among the highest in the NFL," according to Armando Salguero of the MIAMI HERALD. The Dolphins season-ticket mark today is "approximately 40,000," which is the "same as last year." It was 61,121 in '06 and 51,069 in '10. The Dolphins have been "trending in the wrong direction in recent years." Sources within the club admitted that "outside of the free agency flirtation with Peyton Manning for a couple of weeks in 2011, 'the phones haven’t rung' at the ticket office the past couple of years." That shows local fans "might be happy football season is back, but they’re not yet willing to bet their discretionary income on believing the Dolphins are going to win" in '13. Fans "want the Dolphins to show them they’re good rather than tell them they’re going to be good" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/21).

A TURNOUT AT TRAINING CAMP: In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib reports the Dolphins yesterday "launched their second training camp under coach Joe Philbin before an overflow crowd of 2,700 fans at Nova Southeastern University." All 2,000 tickets were "spoken for, in addition to fans watching in suites and standing-room areas." Many already were "sporting No. 11 jerseys for [WR] Mike Wallace" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/22). The Dolphins said that the crowd was the "most for a training camp practice since 2006" (, 7/21).

CHANGE OF SCENERY: In Boston, Ben Volin wrote former Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, who "helped oversee an era of unprecedented success and growth" when he worked with the Red Sox from '02-09, "simply couldn’t replicate his business magic in South Florida." Dee now is Padres President & CEO, which is a "nice landing spot, for sure, but Dee was often like a fish out of water in his role with the Dolphins, as he didn’t quite grasp the market or the sport, and will be mostly remembered for the team’s bizarre promotions." Dee "came to Miami with two goals -- improve attendance and help secure funding for stadium renovations -- and went 0 for 2" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/21).

The Warriors have "gained 2,900 season-ticket holders since their season ended in the second round of the playoffs" despite a 20% average increase in ticket prices, according to Marcus Thompson of the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. The increase is the "second-biggest in the NBA behind" the Kings, who are "operating under new ownership after staving off a move to Seattle." The Warriors now have "13,600 season-ticket holders, the most in franchise history and the second-largest number in the league." Warriors President & CEO Rick Welts said co-Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber "knew it would happen." But both would be "hard-pressed to see it happen so quickly." Thompson noted the Warriors since this time last year have "sold 4,771 season tickets, the most in the NBA." The Warriors' season-ticket renewal rate was 92%, the "fourth highest rate in the NBA." Last season, 84% "renewed with the team coming off a 23-43 record." Meanwhile, the Warriors have "sold out 38 consecutive home games, the longest streak since Oracle Arena was expanded" in '97. Welts said that the Warriors would "like to cap season-ticket sales at 15,000." The team is "considering plans for a waiting list if it reaches" that mark. Welts for this season "hinted at amenity upgrades and other improvements he didn't want to reveal" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 7/20).

Late Twins Owner Carl Pohlad's estate is "mired in a tax dispute with the IRS that has potentially huge financial consequences" years after his death, according to David Phelps of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The agency claims that Pohlad's heirs, who own the Twins, "owe the IRS more than $207 million, largely on the basis of a purportedly low valuation the estate placed on the late patriarch’s most visible asset," the team. The IRS also "wants $48 million as an 'accuracy related penalty' for a total potential tax bill" of $255.8M. The family "disputes the IRS position and asserts that the federal agency greatly overvalued Carl Pohlad’s interest in the Twins after he handed most of the control of the ballclub" to his three sons. But tax attorneys not connected to the case said that the Pohlads will "be on the defensive in this dispute." Attorney Barry Gersick said, "The burden is on the taxpayer to prove the IRS wrong." The dispute "surfaced last month in U.S. Tax Court." The Pohlad estate has "requested a Tax Court trial in Houston, home of the law firm handling its tax case, Baker Botts." However, Baker Botts attorney John Porter said that "further negotiations toward a settlement are expected well before any trial date is set" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/21).

A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING? In Minneapolis, Lee Schafer wrote under the header, "Pohlads' Dispute With IRS Over Team's Value Was Just Estate Planning." The "only thing really remarkable" with the Pohlads' dispute is the "sheer size involved, as the IRS is looking for $121 million in additional estate taxes just related to Carl Pohlad’s ownership" of the Twins (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/21).