“In connection with current rumors and press inquiries, I can report that I’ve been approached by Mr. Jimmy Haslam, who is interested in making an investment in the Cleveland Browns,” Lerner said in a news release. “We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private.”
Lerner didn’t say what percentage of the team Haslam is looking to buy, or he’s looking to sell, but it figures to be a majority stake. Haslam, a prominent Tennessee businessman, already owns a minority share of the archrival Steelers. He would have to give that up to purchase the Browns.
The willingness to negotiate is a departure for Lerner. He’s repeatedly confirmed his commitment to the organization and reversing its miserable fortunes.
In fact, when a rumor out of Philadelphia surfaced in June that Lerner might be willing to sell, the organization denied it.
“The Cleveland Browns are not for sale,” team spokesman Neal Gulkis said.
Haslam, 58, is president and CEO of Pilot Travel Centers, the truck stop company. His father, Jim, founded the initial Pilot fuel company.
The family is huge supporters of the University of Tennessee, and Ben – Jimmy’s brother – is the governor of Tennessee. Jimmy bought a piece of the Steelers in 2008.
“Given that any transaction would require League approval, care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season,” Lerner’s statement continued. “We will share further details or make an announcement if it becomes necessary.”
The Browns will hold their first full-squad practice of training camp today at 2 p.m.
Al Lerner was awarded the Browns in 1998 as an expansion franchise. He previously was a minority owner before Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in 1995.