It's been 10 years since credit card magnate Randy Lerner assumed control over the Cleveland Browns when his father, and then owner, the late Al Learner passed in 2002. Before the elder Lerner passed his son made a promise to him that he would keep the Cleveland Browns in the family. It's been a tumultuous 10 years since Randy took over the team. Multiple coaches, general managers, and many players later the Browns and Lerner has little success to show for his efforts.
Fast forward to 2012 and on the eve of fall training camp it comes out that Lerner is negotiating the sale of the Cleveland Browns to the president of Pilot Service Center Jimmy Haslam III. The sale is not done, and the stakes for which Haslam would take ownership of are not public. One has to think, however though that if all goes well is that Randy Lerner would relinquish all ownership in the team which would allow him to focus soley on the other team that he owns Austin Villa of the English Soccer League.
Haslam III comes from a football and leadership driven family. His dad Jim Haslam II played football at the University of Tennessee under legendary coach Robert Neyland. Bill Haslam Jim's brother is the current Govenor of Tennessee. Jim III is currently the CEO of the Haslam family owned Pilot Corporation. Jim III also holds a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Haslam III's minority stake in the Steelers is what is most intriguing about this whole sale scenario. Haslam's interest in buying the Browns comes from someone who has intimate knowledge of the Browns through the eyes of a division rival. Haslam obviously has a good feeling about the direction for which this organization is headed. Where would this feeling emanate from other than talks with people within the Steelers organization? While the Steelers would never admit it, there must be a positive perception of where this franchise is headed.
You might ask who cares what the Steelers think? Like them or not the Steelers have been one of the strongest organizations in the league for the better part of 40 years. The Rooney's who own the team have as good of an understanding as is out there of how to run a successful football franchise. So having the appreciation of an organization who has had so much success over many years is no small thing. Haslam's acquisition may also put a little added oomph into a Pittsburgh-Cleveland Rivalry that has lost all competitive value since the Browns return in 1999.
While no can know for sure where this will end, it appears that this may be the perfect time and the perfect individual to take over this organization.
Note: For fans who are worried about Haslam moving the team, the Browns are in the middle of a 30 year lease agreement with the City of Cleveland for the rights to use Cleveland Browns Stadium. This wouldn't be an impossible obstacle, but would make one consider very hard if it was worthwhile. Don't fret Browns fans, this team isn't going anywhere.
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