In Lerner, meanwhile, Policy has aligned himself with a man who has been largely reviled since Modell and Maryland officials struck the deal to move the Browns—a bit of business transacted aboard Lerner's private jet. Though his hand has certainly been strengthened by his union with Policy, Lerner, who has lived in Cleveland for almost 40 years, faces some heavy hitters among those expected to make opposing bids: Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan and his brother Larry (with Cosby and Shula attached); New York developer Howard Milstein (whose group includes Browns Hall of Famer Paul Warfield and ex-Cowboys star Calvin Hill); Cleveland developer Bart Wolstein (backed by Jim Brown); Cleveland Indians owner Dick Jacobs; and suburban Cleveland toy-manufacturing mogul Tom Murdough.
Lerner and Policy believe that they are the most qualified of the potential bidders. "I think Cleveland, with Carmen, has a chance to get it done quicker and better than anything I see out there," Lerner said last Friday. Kosar, who will likely receive a front-office job if Lerner and Policy land the franchise, also stressed the time element, saying, "We're one year away from playing football, and with that condensed time line, you cannot afford on-the-job training or a learning curve."
The decision, which will be made by a vote among the 30 league owners, is likely to come down to money, an astounding amount of money. According to Cowboys owner Jones, the price tag on the recent Minnesota Vikings sale, when tax breaks and debt forgiveness are factored in, was approximately $325 million. Jones says the Browns, with a new lakefront stadium as a huge revenue source, can expect to earn "$50 to $75 million a year more than the Vikings. I'm sick of reading that the Browns will sell for $300 million—that's incredibly low. In my estimation, the price will be in the high hundreds of millions, between $700 million and $900 million."
While conceding that Lerner could afford to pay that much for the franchise, Jones couldn't resist taking a gentle dig at would-be part owner Policy, who, it seems, will not be able to escape his history with DeBartolo as easily as he fled San Francisco. "I don't begrudge Carmen for hooking up with somebody who might make a great owner," Jones said. "It would be a good experience for him to make some of the decisions he has made in the past, while at the same time having to pay the bills."