First of all, let’s just get all the freak outs out of the way. Change is scary. Uncertainty! Screaming! Crying?
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business, bullet point style.
Jimmy Haslam is the 55 year-old CEO of Pilot Travel Centers. He is the son of an 81-year-old Jim Haslam II. Randy Lerner’s statement mentions Jimmy so we’re talking about the 55-year-old and not the 81-year-old.
So he’s the son of a billionaire. Haven’t we been down this road before? Maybe. Maybe not. Haslam has been the CEO of the company since 2001 and the company has grown since that time. This is not a shot at Randy Lerner. Just pointing out he’s been running a privately held corporation that has a reported 13,000+ employees today.
Jimmy Haslam is an investor with the Steelers.1 While that may be disconcerting to some at first, let’s look at what he told Steelers.com that impressed him enough that he wanted to invest in the team. “I was immediately impressed with Art and Dan Rooney’s business acumen and conservative philosophy.” Translation: I don’t want to emulate Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones.
Also from that same interview, Haslam says he grew up a Cowboys fan and then became a Colts fan. Presumably the Colts thing is because he is a huge supporter of Tennessee, so naturally he wanted to follow Peyton Manning’s career. Hard to argue with that. Obviously after investing with the Steelers, he became a Steelers fan.
If he buys the Browns or a majority stake in the Browns, trust me when I tell you he’ll be a Browns fan. I am quite sure that if he buys a stake in the Browns, he’ll have to divest any stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers. When and if he does that, he’ll become a Browns fan. If you are a huge fan of McDonald’s and their happy meals as a kid and then have a chance to buy four Burger Kings, guess who won’t be all that tied to Big Macs any longer?
For once, I’m really happy that I got to visit Steelers.com because it caused me to look at this. You can get married at a Steelers game. We’ve always joked that cheesy Steelers fans will even wear their stupid jerseys to church. Thanks for breaking the stereotype yinzers.
The Browns just switched presidents and GMs and coaches. I’ll admit that I am wary of an ownership change because I’d hate to start over with a new front office and everything. It’s way too early to worry about those kinds of things. The team hasn’t even been sold yet, so worrying about Mike Holmgren’s replacement or someone cleaning house is premature.
What’s the price tag going to be? Forbes will claim that the Browns are the 20th most valuable sports franchise in the world and are worth $977 million. The Browns were originally sold to Al Lerner in 1998 for $530 million. Who knows? I would guess the team’s value will be north of a billion for valuation purposes when they determine what percentage Haslam might buy in.
There’s just too much variability right now to know for sure. Is Randy Lerner going to sell it? Is he going to retain a percentage of the team? Is he going to retain enough to remain the majority owner?
Obviously Haslam already has a minority stake in a decidedly better football franchise to date. I can’t imagine he would bother doing anything at all with another NFL franchise unless it was for a controlling stake so he could buy his way into the game instead of being silent on the sidelines.
That’s just a figure of speech though. Buying his way into the game doesn’t mean he won’t just be like the Rooney’s and run the team with respect and dignity while also forcing the top-down culture.
That last part’s what you have to hope for. Randy Lerner hasn’t been successful doing things his way. That being the case I fully accepted him “outsourcing” himself in some respects by hiring Mike Holmgren. Recognizing a need and trying to fill it from outside the organization is acceptable business. Still, there’s no way to say that that is preferable to an owner who has the ability to truly lead by example and create a culture of accountability, professionalism and success.
If this team does sell and Jimmy Haslam becomes the guy who is recognized as the owner of this franchise, I hope beyond hope that he quickly becomes the kind of owner that other cities envy as the Browns are succeeding on the field with class and dignity.
“OMG! The Steelers are the Browns’ biggest rival! I’m so scared. Hold my hand!” I thought we were getting this out of our system. [↩]