BEREA – With the recent signings of first round picks in running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns owner, Randy Lerner has decided to make some headlines of his own.
According to Tony Rizzo and Kenny Roda of ESPNCleveland.com, Lerner is in talks with Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner, Jimmy Haslam III about investing in the 60-year old, eight-time NFL champion franchise.
“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.
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.”
Haslam III, 55, is President of Pilot Travel Centers, the nation’s largest retail operator of travel centers and truck stops.
With a rumored net worth of $800 million, Haslem III could either be brought on as a new minority investor alongside Lerner, or be the leader of a prospective investment group and buy the moribund franchise from the reclusive billionaire outright.
Per NFL rules, for Haslam III to become an investor in the Browns, he would have to sell his stake in the Steelers, and gain league approval.
Lerner, 50, would inherit the Browns from his late father, Al, in 2002, has been the subject of local-area scorn and contempt amongst Browns fans due to the perception—and possible misconception—that he is disengaged as Browns owner.
His majority ownership in the English Premier League team, Aston Villa, is a sore spot amongst diehards who feel that he cares more about his soccer team in England than in reversing the Browns miserable fortunes.
Under Lerner, Cleveland has won 56 games, lost 104, and made the playoffs once—losing to the Steelers, 36-33 in the 2002 AFC Wild Card Game.
The Browns have had two winning seasons under Lerner’s ownership, the 9-7 fore-mentioned playoff team in 2002, and the most recent coming in 2007 under Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson, in which the Browns would finish 10-6.
Robert D. Cobb is the NBA Network Manager for Rant Media Network, Featured Writer of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Browns and Arsenal Gunners.
In addition to covering the NBA, I also cover MLB, NFL, NHL and Champions League soccer news, rumors and opinions, please follow me on Twitter at @RobertCobb_76