As Jimmy Haslam finalizes a deal to buy the Browns, only a week after news of the deal between Haslam and Randy Lerner first broke, Haslam acknowledges that former Eagles president Joe Banner has had a role in the transaction.
“We did consult with several people on an unofficial basis, and one of them was [Banner],” Haslam tells Adam Schefter of ESPN. “But we’re not going to comment on any potential hires at this time.”
There’s at least one good reason for discretion: The league has yet to approve the sale. Given, however, that Haslam already has been approved to own a double-digit piece of the Steelers and that (as we reported last week) the Lerner-Haslam deal was brokered at the league-office level, it would be a shock if at least 24 of the other owners don’t vote in favor of Haslam taking over the Browns.
Per Schefter, Haslam had dinner on Thursday night with team president Mike Holmgren. On Friday, Haslam will meet coach Pat Shurmur and G.M. Tom Heckert.
“This is a critical time of year for the team and we don’t want to be a distraction,” Haslam said. “The story after today needs to be about the Browns, not about the change in ownership.”
If, however, Holmgren’s contract contains a clause that allows him to leave with full pay after a change in ownership, Holmgren could decide that he wants out. Or he could revise his deal to give himself the ability to pull the rip cord and cash out whenever he wants, like Bill Parcells did during his 30-day escape hatch after Stephen Ross bought the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga.
Either way, change is coming to Cleveland — unless Haslam plans to be an absentee landlord, like Randy Lerner was.