- Associated Press - Friday, August 3, 2012

An ownership change can make the folks in Cleveland nervous, especially when it involves the Browns.

Fear not, inhabitants of the Dawg Pound. New owner Jimmy Haslam III won’t be pulling an Art Modell.

Randy Lerner has reached a deal to sell the club to Tennessee truck-stop magnate Haslam _ a minority stockholder in the rival Steelers, of all teams. Haslam promised Lerner the franchise won’t be relocated.

“He had done a lot of work on the Browns and the city of Cleveland,” Lerner said, “and first and foremost gave me his personal assurance the team would remain in Cleveland.”

Lerner will sell 70 percent of the Browns to Haslam now, with the other 30 percent reverting to him four years after the closing date, a person with knowledge of the sale told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details have not officially been announced.

“This is a very exciting time for my family and me,” Haslam said through the team.

“To own such a storied franchise as the Cleveland Browns, with its rich tradition and history, is a dream come true. We are committed to keeping the team in Cleveland and seeing it get back to the elite of the NFL _ something all Browns fans want and deserve.”

Haslam planned to hold a news conference at Browns headquarters Friday.

“We plan to bring relentless dedication and hard work to every aspect of this organization, and we look forward to getting to know this team and community as quickly as possible,” Haslam said. “Our family is committed to becoming an integral part of the Cleveland community.”

While the papers have been signed, the NFL still must approve the sale. Getting the nod from 24 of the 32 teams is required, and no date has been set for a vote because the sale has not been presented to the league yet. The person with knowledge of the sale said approval is expected by the end of September.

ESPN reported the sale price was more than $1 billion. For comparison, the Miami Dolphins sold at a value of more than $1 billion in 2009.

The Browns were valued at $977 million last year by Forbes magazine, 20th in the NFL.

Asked if he was surprised by the deal, team President Mike Holmgren said: “On one hand, the surprising part was the time of the year. But in this business, I gave up being surprised a long time ago.”

Lerner, whose family has owned the franchise since it returned to the NFL in 1999, first announced he was in negotiations to sell the club last week. The late Al Lerner, Randy’s father, purchased the franchise from the NFL in 1998 for $530 million after the original Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. The elder Lerner died in 2002.

Randy Lerner also is the owner of Aston Villa, a club in the English Premier League.

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