BEREA -- Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said he’s “very optimistic” regarding the federal investigation of Pilot Flying J, he’s committed to owning the team for a long period and cash flow isn’t a problem.
Haslam spoke to reporters for seven minutes as the Browns began their first practice of training camp under bright sunshine. Haslam watched stretching and stood between fields before meeting with the media.
“I understand in Cleveland there’s a great deal of uncertainty because of past history, but the fans should not worry. Our family is going to own this asset for a long, long time,” he said, wearing a gray Browns T-shirt and brown Browns shorts. “We’re excited and we feel (it’s) a privilege to own not just an NFL team, but to own the Cleveland Browns with all the heritage and history it has.
“There’s absolutely no worry about cash flow. We’re looking at this as a long-term vision. We want to be successful as quickly as we can, we want to build a long-term vision here.”
Haslam is CEO of Pilot Flying J, the largest truck stop franchise in the country. The headquarters of Pilot Flying J were raided April 15 and it remains under federal investigation. Despite some of his employees pleading guilty and more than 20 trucking companies filing lawsuits, Haslam has maintained he didn’t know about a fraud program to cheat trucking companies of their proper rebates.
Indictment remains a possibility for Haslam, who was asked if there’s a plan in place for ownership of the team if that happens.
“One of the very first calls we made was to the NFL,” Haslam said regarding the FBI raid. “We’re in constant contact with them, they have been very supportive in working with us and I’d say we’re very optimistic on the outcome.”
Haslam said he’s able to focus on the problems at Pilot Flying J and the Browns.
“I apologize for the negative attention this has brought to Cleveland, the Browns and the NFL and I mean that sincerely,” he said. “I’ll be honest, I’m going to stay very focused on two things. One, making sure we correct the activities at Pilot Flying J that led to some of the accusations that have been made. But secondly and more importantly, to do the things we talked to at Cleveland.
“I don’t think anybody senses distraction here. Everybody is entirely focused on the two things we talked about -- winning games and providing a great experience for our fans.”
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