Although prospective Browns owner Jimmy Haslam hasn’t said anything in the 24 hours or so since word emerged of his effort to swap out a minority share in the Steelers for controlling interest in the Browns, he could be taking center stage in Cleveland, soon.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the sale from Randy Lerner to Jimmy Haslam is on the “fast track,” and that the deal could be approved in August.
(By “approved,” that likely means by a committee of owners, and not the full body. A league source tells PFT that the next full meeting of owners is set for October.)
It’s not a surprise; the recent sale of the Jaguars from Wayne Weaver to Shahid Khan received similar grease-through-goose treatment, with the sale official not long after word emerged that a transaction was happening.
The Browns sale was brokered, we’re told, at the league-office level. The fact that Haslam already owns a double-digit piece of the Steelers made the process a lot more smooth than if he had no prior NFL ties. Indeed, if the owners already have approved Haslam to own a significant piece of the Steelers, why wouldn’t they approve him to own all or most of the Browns?
Officially, it’s unknown whether Lerner will return a minority share in the team, and whether other minority interests will be sold. Under league rules, one person can control a team by owning as little as 30 percent of all equity.
He could thereafter sell off slices to serious investors and the likes of Drew Carey, Trace Adkins (I had to mention him because he’s in the picture with Haslam) and Michael Stanley, as other owners have done. (And, yes, I now know who Michael Stanley is.)
There’s speculation in league circles that, apart from Lerner’s apparent lack of interest in being an NFL owner, he decided to liquidate the Browns because he needed the cash to finance the operations of his English soccer club, Aston Villa.
That’s an example of what they call “rich people problems,” problems that anyone who isn’t rich would love to have.
Within the next month or so, Lerner’s biggest problem will be figuring out where to park $920 million.
That’s a shame.