BEREA, OHIO (AP) - The new Browns owner said he’s ready to bring “winning back to Cleveland” and proclaimed there’s “zero chance” he’ll move the team out of town.
A day after agreeing to purchase the Browns for a reported $1 billion, truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam III held a news conference Friday at the club’s training camp facility.
That’s been a tough task for a club still looking for its first NFL championship in nearly a half century. The expansion Browns entered the NFL in 1999 and have made the playoffs just once. They’ve had two winning records in 13 seasons and are 68-140 since they returned.
Nonetheless, the 58-year-old Haslam said all the pieces are in place for the Browns to win, and that if they don’t, he’ll take full responsibility. Haslam, the older brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, arrived in Cleveland on Thursday night, had dinner with Holmgren, and attended practice Friday morning. He wore a Browns T-Shirt and shorts on a hot, humid morning, before changing into a business suit with an orange tie for his news conference.
Randy Lerner reached a deal to sell the club on Thursday with Haslam, a minority stockholder in the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Haslam must divest his interest in the Steelers and also gain approval for the purchase from the NFL.
Coach Pat Shurmur spoke to the new owner at practice.
“What I found out, and what I think everyone found out, is I found them to be very passionate people, very excited to own Cleveland Browns,” he said of the Haslam family. “This should be a great mix for our fan base and our city.”
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.
While the papers have been signed, the NFL still must sign off on the deal. Getting the nod from 24 of the 32 teams is required, which will likely happen in the next few months.
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.