Randy Lerner’s father, Al Lerner, bought the Browns for $530 million in 1998. After a decade of losing, Randy was looking to sell the Brownies for a price upward of $1 billion (sweet gig, being a sports owner, eh?). While it looks like Lerner’s billion dollar asking price won’t be met, I’d imagine he’ll be okay with this outcome:
Randy Lerner is in the process of selling the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League to James Haslam for $920 million, according to someone familiar with the deal but who has not been authorized to speak about it publicly.
Lerner had been looking for between $1 billion and $1.1 billion for the team his father purchased for $530 million in 1998. Haslam is currently a minority owner of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and is president and CEO of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J, an $18 billion in sales chain of truck stops.
Last August we valued the Browns at $977 million, 2oth out of the league’s 32 teams. The Browns posted an operating loss (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $2.9 million during the 2010 season. The only other NFL teams to have an operating loss that year were the Detroit Lions. The Browns have lost 67% of their games during their 13 seasons. The only team to do worse over that span? The Lions.
It has been rumored ever since Al Lerner died in 2002 that his son, Randy, who bought the English soccer team Aston Villa in 2006, might sell the Browns. He is believed to be more interested in soccer than football and has pumped over $150 million into the struggling soccer team. Two years ago the team’s fans petitioned Lerner to sell the Browns.
The paperwork for the sale has not been delivered to the NFL offices yet. And Lerner has been talking to other potential buyers. But Haslam is by far the furthest along in the process, according to my source. And since he is already familiar to the owners as a minority investor in the Steelers, it is not expected the league will have any objections.
[Related: So Jimmy Haslem Could Invest In The Browns]