So Jimmy Haslam Could Invest in the Browns?

Corporate photo of Jimmy Haslam from

Corporate photo of Jimmy Haslam from

First of all, let’s just get all the freak outs out of the way. Change is scary. Uncertainty! Screaming! Crying?

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business, bullet point style.

  • Jimmy Haslam is the 55 year-old CEO of Pilot Travel Centers. He is the son of an 81-year-old Jim Haslam II. Randy Lerner’s statement mentions Jimmy so we’re talking about the 55-year-old and not the 81-year-old.
  • So he’s the son of a billionaire. Haven’t we been down this road before? Maybe. Maybe not. Haslam has been the CEO of the company since 2001 and the company has grown since that time. This is not a shot at Randy Lerner. Just pointing out he’s been running a privately held corporation that has a reported 13,000+ employees today.
  • Jimmy Haslam is an investor with the Steelers.1 While that may be disconcerting to some at first, let’s look at what he told that impressed him enough that he wanted to invest in the team. “I was immediately impressed with Art and Dan Rooney’s business acumen and conservative philosophy.” Translation: I don’t want to emulate Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones.
  • Also from that same interview, Haslam says he grew up a Cowboys fan and then became a Colts fan. Presumably the Colts thing is because he is a huge supporter of Tennessee, so naturally he wanted to follow Peyton Manning’s career. Hard to argue with that. Obviously after investing with the Steelers, he became a Steelers fan.
  • If he buys the Browns or a majority stake in the Browns, trust me when I tell you he’ll be a Browns fan. I am quite sure that if he buys a stake in the Browns, he’ll have to divest any stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers. When and if he does that, he’ll become a Browns fan. If you are a huge fan of McDonald’s and their happy meals as a kid and then have a chance to buy four Burger Kings, guess who won’t be all that tied to Big Macs any longer?
  • For once, I’m really happy that I got to visit because it caused me to look at this. You can get married at a Steelers game. We’ve always joked that cheesy Steelers fans will even wear their stupid jerseys to church. Thanks for breaking the stereotype yinzers.
  • The Browns just switched presidents and GMs and coaches. I’ll admit that I am wary of an ownership change because I’d hate to start over with a new front office and everything. It’s way too early to worry about those kinds of things. The team hasn’t even been sold yet, so worrying about Mike Holmgren’s replacement or someone cleaning house is premature.
  • What’s the price tag going to be? Forbes will claim that the Browns are the 20th most valuable sports franchise in the world and are worth $977 million. The Browns were originally sold to Al Lerner in 1998 for $530 million. Who knows? I would guess the team’s value will be north of a billion for valuation purposes when they determine what percentage Haslam might buy in.
  • There’s just too much variability right now to know for sure. Is Randy Lerner going to sell it? Is he going to retain a percentage of the team? Is he going to retain enough to remain the majority owner?
  • Obviously Haslam already has a minority stake in a decidedly better football franchise to date. I can’t imagine he would bother doing anything at all with another NFL franchise unless it was for a controlling stake so he could buy his way into the game instead of being silent on the sidelines.
  • That’s just a figure of speech though. Buying his way into the game doesn’t mean he won’t just be like the Rooney’s and run the team with respect and dignity while also forcing the top-down culture.
That last part’s what you have to hope for. Randy Lerner hasn’t been successful doing things his way. That being the case I fully accepted him “outsourcing” himself in some respects by hiring Mike Holmgren. Recognizing a need and trying to fill it from outside the organization is acceptable business. Still, there’s no way to say that that is preferable to an owner who has the ability to truly lead by example and create a culture of accountability, professionalism and success.
If this team does sell and Jimmy Haslam becomes the guy who is recognized as the owner of this franchise, I hope beyond hope that he quickly becomes the kind of owner that other cities envy as the Browns are succeeding on the field with class and dignity.


  1. “OMG! The Steelers are the Browns’ biggest rival! I’m so scared. Hold my hand!” I thought we were getting this out of our system. []

  • MrCleaveland

    “Translation: I don’t want to emulate Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones.”

    Good one.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Will he bring Mike Wallace with him????

  • mgbode

    the biggest question I can’t seem to find is how big of a minority stake in the Steelers does he own?

    he simply could have been looking for a bigger stake to continue building up towards owning a majority stake. either the Browns might be that last piece or it might be a building block along the way.

  • Harv 21

    I assume it’s majority ownership, or he wouldn’t sell stock in a better company just to eek closer toward majority ownership in a worse one, and Randy wouldn’t bother trying to get out in front of the story.

    My first thought: Holmgren was very clear when he arrived that he came here because of his relationship with Randy. Heckert is our first competent GM since Accorsi, and as awful as the Lerners have been I’d hate to turn it over again before we see how this latest iteration of the team does.

    Re moving the team, the league may ask for a promise before approving a new owner but, as Al Davis showed, it cannot necessarily block an owner from moving. But in any case, LA doesn’t support its football teams very well and we do and this is an attractive market. So I’m not worried about that at all.

  • 216in614

    im not worried about moving the team either… fielding this poor of a team won’t fly in any other city but cleveland.

  • Harv 21

    “Randy Lerner hasn’t been successful doing things his way. That being the case I fully accepted him “outsourcing” himself in some respects by hiring Mike Holmgren.”

    Craig, the crux of both Lerners’ problem is that they don’t have “a way” and have only outsourced from the beginning, from Policy to Butch to Savage to Mangini to Holmgren. As soon as the incompetence becomes apparent they outsource again, and veer from philosophy to philosophy. Is the most important guy the QB? The coach? The personnel guy? Many voices checking and balancing? One guy who handles everything? Randy spends money generously but has never had an idea of what works and he falls for the latest persuasive voice in his ear. If (if) Holmgren is the right guy it’s because Randy was bound to get lucky after so many tries.

  • mgbode

    I disagree. While the rates at which the teams value will rise differently, it is very possible that he sees the Steelers as a team who is peaked out (after their last decade run) while the Browns have a chance at a much higher rate of improvement (on the field + history translating to franchise value).

    and, in the meantime, the yearly income he receives from the NFL will increase with whatever bigger % he owns.

  • Grif_E

    Those are some seriously weak bullet points, and by bullet points I mean those light gray triangles, not the points themselves.

  • dan

    I don’t care who he emulates, as long as he’s not trying to emulate Randy Lerner. Snyder had been, by the standard of any franchise other than the Browns, a disaster of an owner, but both he and Jones are far better at what they do than Lerner ever was. I know nothing about this new guy, but any change at the top has to be an improvement.

  • Rob

    I have a feeling this will move quickly; Lerner has tax advantages to selling before 2013, and I think you’d rather have an agreement in place before the season starts rolling rather than during it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The Browns are a toy Randy’s pop pop left him and it’s not shiny or new anymore so maybe he’ll let another one of his friends play with it.

  • floydrubino

    You gave Randy Lerner credit for doing one right thing in 10 years or so. List the things he has done wrong and list the things he has done right and you will get a true perspective on how bad this guy is. Lerner is selling the team because he has always viewed it as an investment so before the league takes a hit on the concussion thing his people are saying sell high. And when you say you are concerned about an ownership turnover it would be an immediate positive effect as soon as the new owner was named.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You seem to be reaching alot these days (that whole LaPorta-Hanley comparison was like a weak Kotchman grounder back to the pitcher IMO) I mean Browns fans have been hoping the Steelers have peeked for how many years now not to mention thinking their own team has improved. I mean maybe one day this will happen but not for awhile unfortunately. The once great history has been severely tarnished but it’s nothing some consistent winning can’t cure unfortunately I think that won’t be for awhile as well.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m going to chime in here:
    Steelers jerseys at church? Let me tell you, Eagles fans are just as bad, if not worse. Must be something in this sweet, abundant, Pennsylvania water.

  • mgbode

    I didn’t compare Hanley to LaPorta. Please. I said that he was being paid $16mil/year but for the last 760ABs he had in Florida he was putting up LaPorta-style stats.

    and I was merely putting a frame of mind that could have one go from a small piece of a more successful team (in any sport) to a less successful one. I don’t think that is necessarily true, it’s just that with the market sizes being similar, there is more growth potential in a team with less success (and more risk too).

  • mgbode

    also, more reports filtering out that it is indeed a majority stake (and possibly full stake) that he is seeking.

    Jay Schottenstein is apparently in the mix with a separate bid.

    Eagles team president Joe Banner may be involved with one of these bids (or a separate bid).

    lots of smoke coming out those chimneys now.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Why not 761ABs or 762 what…ah nevermind but okay time will tell.

  • DontbringLBJback

    Gotta agree there… I was at a funeral in Philly on a Saturday during football season (yes, a SATURDAY.. not even game day), and prolly 10%-20% of those freaks were in Eagles jerseys. 500 people in the Cathedral downtown, and my only thought was “Gosh I am glad I’m not from this sewer of a town… no respect for God, the dead, or anything else”.

  • Garry_Owen

    But they love dem Iggles!
    You can tell on Sunday morning during football season whether Penn State won on Saturday by the population of blue jerseys. If they won, everyone’s in their Sunday Best blue and white. If they lost, they’re in their Eagle green (the ugliest color in the NFL, IMO) Goin’-to-Meetin’ garb.
    I’m guessing I won’t be seeing much blue for a few years . . . Sundays will be “all green” for a while.

  • maxfnmloans

    I’m afraid to say anything, I don’t want to jinx it

  • Garry_Owen

    All this fear about the Browns moving . . .
    Hey, at least the Indians’ attendance problems would be fixed!
    [Go ahead. Start clicking that down arrow.]

  • Jaker

    Wouldn’t this be the first sports franchise to be sold for $1 billion? That would be pretty awesome! Suck on that, Yankees!

  • Harv 21

    ok, now that the initial adrenaline/Clevelandy angst has worn off:

    The Browns record since 1999: something like 66 – 150.

    66 and 150!!!!

    Forget the angst, new ownership cannot lower that winning percentage if they try, not in a league tilted toward parity. It’s as unlikely as Modell losing money in a filled stadium in an outrageously popular sport with an enormous tv contract, revenue sharing and a hard salary cap. We can’t have a third straight bumbling owner.

    New ownership? I’m so ready, I’m taking yes for an answer. Screw the worries today. Mary Poppins, grab the umbrella; kiddies, grab the helium balloons. We’re heading up.

  • Harv 21

    also, wonder who Tony Grossi has NOT called at Plain Dealer management today.

  • BenRM

    Over the course of 9 seasons (from 2003 through 2011), the Redskins have 11 more wins than the Browns. They have averaged about 1 more win per year than the Browns per season.

    So, it’s hyperbole to say that Snyder is a *FAR* better owner than Lerner.

  • mgbode

    i took the entire 2011 and 2012 seasons. it ain’t rocket science 🙂

    and, time doesn’t matter. the fact is that a small market team cannot take a $32mil risk (his salary for 2013 & 2014) that he will snap out of a 2 season-long funk. a big market team can.

  • 5KMD

    My brother in law wore his steelers jersey to my kid’s baptism

  • mgbode

    umm, maybe the first sold for $1billion, but the Dodgers were sold for $2.1 billion.

  • BenRM

    Frankly, they’re both incompetent.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well not to be nit picky but since the entire 2012 season has yet to be played you didn’t technically take it all. Also, out of an eight year career you just happened to take the one “down” year by Hanley but it’s all good. I’m sure LA will enjoy his services just fine. Truth be told I’m still a little bitter that the Sox traded Hanley to start.

  • mgbode

    I apologize. In the future, I will include the stats from the rest of the season that hasn’t been played yet 🙂

  • mgbode

    i once knew a kid named Frank Lee

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Don’t let it happen again mister!!!

  • Kildawg

    I heard that Banner is with Haslem’s camp for the team, ergo why Banner retired from Eagles pres to be minority owner/Browns pres (replacing Holmgren) and guaranteeing that Heckert stays as GM because Heck is awesome at his job.

  • Kildawg

    Yeah, the first NFL team for $1billion plus, first franchise without celeb-athlete as part owner? (Magic was part of LA Dodgers new owner group and they went for ten figures)

  • SDA

    You said that exactly right. Look at winning organizations and one of the thing that really sticks out is stability. And the only way to keep stability is to have a game plan or “way” you do things.make minor changes as necessary. The Browns haven’t had that since their return. We can only hope new ownership makes minor changes and doesn’t just blow it up again

  • SDA

    I have a cousin named Frankie