The Knoxville News is reporting that an investment group, led by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee governor Bill Haslam is selling the Tennessee Smokies, the AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
“The move comes as the Haslam family faces a firestorm of controversy related to Pilot,” says the report. ”The giant chain of truck stops is being investigated by the federal government in connection with a rebate fraud scheme that has already netted guilty pleas from five employees.”
Jimmy Haslam said Thursday that the sale of the Smokies is “absolutely not” related to the legal woes facing Pilot.
“It does have something to do with Cleveland in that we’re obviously going to be spending more time there,” he said, a reference to his ownership of the Browns. “But I think the reality is the entire partnership group had owned the team for 12 years and felt like it was time for new ownership.’”
The cash deal is for an undisclosed amount, though the new owner said all the former investors will see a return for their money. According to the report, the group led by the Haslams paid $7.5 million for the baseball team in 2002. The Haslams famously bought the Browns for just over $1 billion dollars last fall.
Jimmy Haslam tried to assure Cleveland fans that there was nothing to worry about with the sale of the Smokies. “Absolutely zero to worry about,” he said.