Browns owner Lerner talking with possible investor
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner said Friday he is discussing a possible investment in the team by truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam, a self-described "1,000 percent" Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
"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. We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private," Lerner said in a statement.
"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. We will share further details or make an announcement if it becomes necessary."
The Browns have been owned by the Lerner family since 1999, when the franchise was reborn after the original club moved to Baltimore.
Randy Lerner, who also owns the Aston Villa soccer club in England, inherited the Browns in 2002 following the death of his father, Al.
Some fans have been unhappy with Randy Lerner, long criticizing him as a disengaged owner of a club that has made the playoffs just once since it was recreated.
In June, Browns president Mike Holmgren reiterated the Browns were not for sale, responding to a rumor that Lerner had the team on the market.
"No, the Browns are not for sale," he said. "I talk to Randy all the time, and I assume he'd tell me. We have a very open, honest relationship. No, there's no truth to that."
Jimmy Haslam is current president and CEO of Pilot Flying J and brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Lauren Christ, spokeswoman for the company, confirmed that Jimmy Haslam was the prospective Browns investor. She said Haslam would have no further comment on the Browns statement and referred all questions to the team.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league is aware of the discussions.
Haslam has been a minority investor in the Pittsburgh Steelers and in a 2010 profile told the team's Steelers.com Web site that he had been a Dallas Cowboys and then an Indianapolis Colts fan. But with Pittsburgh investment, Haslam said he had become "1,000 percent a Steelers fan."
Haslam and his wife donated $10 million to the University of Tennessee for scholarship and faculty programs.
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