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Haslam “very optimistic” about federal probe of Pilot Flying J

Jimmy Haslam AP

It’s late July, a time when (as former NFL linebacker Chad Brown said on today’s edition of Pro Football Talk) hope springs eternal, even if the franchise has otherwise sprung a leak.  Every team is 0-0, and every coach and player and executive believes his team is going to be better than ever.

They may secretly fear the team will suck, but they’ll never say it.

That same mentality could be influencing Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s reaction to a federal investigation that has yielded five guilty pleas (and possibly counting) in a customer rebate scam hatched and maintained by the truck-stop company Haslam runs, Pilot Flying J.   In the latest effort to make like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, Haslam said Thursday he’s “very optimistic” about the outcome of the pending criminal probe.

“I understand in Cleveland there’s a great deal of uncertainty because of past history, but the fans should not worry,” Haslam said, via Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal.  “Our family is going to own this asset for a long, long time.  We’re excited and we feel [it’s] a privilege to own not just an NFL, but to own the Cleveland Browns with all the heritage and history it has.”

Haslam’s glass-half-full proclamation came during a somewhat evasive response to the question of whether he has a plan in place, if he’s indicted.

“Our style is to be very transparent and very open,” Haslam said.  “When the government investigation happened on April 15, one of the very first calls we made was to the NFL.  We’re in constant contact with them.  They have been very supportive in working with us and I’ll say we’re very optimistic on the outcome.”

It’s impossible to know with certainty that the outcome will be positive, unless Haslam has been told he won’t be charged. (And if he’d been told that, the Browns surely would have disclosed that.)  With the investigation and grand jury proceedings happening quietly and discreetly, we only know at this point that five Pilot Flying J employees have pleaded guilty, and that at least one of them said in his plea deal that “senior management” was aware of the customer rebate fraud.

Optimism isn’t the natural and logical emotion that flows from that reality.

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22 Responses to “Haslam “very optimistic” about federal probe of Pilot Flying J”
  1. mrbigass says: Jul 25, 2013 6:55 PM

    He said “his family” will own the team for a very long time. What about him??

    Odd that he did not mention himself……

  2. bennyb82 says: Jul 25, 2013 7:01 PM

    I think he meant in comparison to the Brown’s upcoming season.

  3. callahan9119 says: Jul 25, 2013 7:05 PM

    This is a nothing story. His stupid company is gonna shell out some millions in a settlement or fine and that’s it. He isn’t going to jail, he isn’t losing the team.

  4. vbe2 says: Jul 25, 2013 7:18 PM

    Hyperbole

  5. harrisonhits2 says: Jul 25, 2013 7:21 PM

    Must’ve successfully bribed the prosecutor.

  6. kwjsb says: Jul 25, 2013 7:26 PM

    mrbigass says: Jul 25, 2013 6:55 PM

    He said “his family” will own the team for a very long time. What about him??

    Odd that he did not mention himself……

    He is part of “His Family” if you are not part of yours, well
    SAD

  7. thereisalwaysnextyear says: Jul 25, 2013 7:29 PM

    If his family is going to own the asset for a long long time they should have levered it up to bring natural gas to their truck stops instead of buying and nfl team. Trucks will all be natural gas in 10 years.

  8. thetooloftools says: Jul 25, 2013 7:42 PM

    “federal investigation that has yielded five guilty pleas (and possibly counting)”.
    NOBODY is even offered a plea deal unless bigger fish are going to be fried. Jimmy is trying to paint an optimistic picture which is how any smart person would play it. From the dots I’m connecting from the speed by which the F.B.I. got those plea agreements, they must have some “air tight” evidence that some of the highest of the highs at Pilot/Flying J are going to prison.
    (I don’t think the F.B.I. is pressing for a big fine).

  9. countduku says: Jul 25, 2013 7:42 PM

    Be patient Mr. Haslam, The Feds and the IRS have all they need, and are just waiting for you to pay back everyone you think you owe, that way the victims won’t have to wait years for the money to go through the court system. Your handcuffs have already been sized up for you, it’s just that time is allowing the prosecution to make their case even more solid, thanks to you. I can’t say i know how the whole ownership thing will play out however. How you respond to the charges will help determine that. Good luck, and Go Browns!

  10. youarejealousof6rings says: Jul 25, 2013 8:03 PM

    Leaving Grieveland…

  11. mrbigass says: Jul 25, 2013 8:26 PM

    @kwjsb

    He is part of “His Family” if you are not part of yours, well
    SAD

    Silly rabbit, my family is just fine. I thought it odd to say “my family” instead of “I” will own this team. Almost like sayin’ he might not be around for a bit and his family will run the show while he’s in the pokey gettin’ married to a big gal named Phil……….;)

  12. bigdawgy54 says: Jul 25, 2013 8:48 PM

    It’s a shame that the Browns had to end up with this guy as the new owner. Haslam’s previous scam/fraud case against the people recovering from two separate hurricanes cost he and company millions. How much will this one cost him and his company? Will he be able to properly fund the Browns?
    I have no idea if Haslam will be indicted. I have no idea if he will avoid jail by again paying out millions. But, I hope to goodness that his foray of scandals does not have a negative impact on the Cleveland Browns.
    The city of Cleveland, the Cleveland Browns, and the fans deserve better. They have all been dragged into Jimmy’s mud hole…..against their will.

  13. northstarnic says: Jul 25, 2013 9:18 PM

    Stick him in a cell with Hernandez

  14. kane337 says: Jul 25, 2013 9:43 PM

    Put him jail for stealing from all of those truckers.

  15. countduku says: Jul 25, 2013 9:48 PM

    In other related news, The Feds and the IRS are also “very optimistic” in their case against Pilot Flying J.

  16. oldbrowndawg says: Jul 25, 2013 9:55 PM

    Here’s a unique thought: How about we all take a deep breath and wait for this to play out. Some folks may have some very runny egg on their face if it doesn’t come out the way they’re describing. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law? Does that just apply to owners of teams y’all like? Geez!

  17. rcali says: Jul 25, 2013 10:15 PM

    Wow, he must have paid off a lot of people then.

  18. callahan9119 says: Jul 25, 2013 11:54 PM

    The team funds itself, a franchise, especially in a football crazy city like Cleveland, has nothing to worry about. The team itself has a yearly revenue of over 250 million with a newer stadium and now naming rights revenue

  19. drgreenstreak says: Jul 26, 2013 3:44 AM

    “…he’s “very optimistic” about the outcome of the pending criminal probe.” – Attorney for Aaron Hernandez.

    Cleveland fans should not be defending this man. Haslam doesn’t just own the company. He “runs it”.

    Of course his company is offering reimbursement and compensation. Certainly, he is also offering those who have pled guilty a nice sum, as well. A nice bonus if their testimony leaves Mr. Haslam clean as a nun’s habit.
    Methinks this ain’t gonna end so pleasant for the home team and reverberations will shake through his brother, the Guv of Tennessee who is also a part owner along with their father.

  20. 4512dawg4512 says: Jul 26, 2013 4:55 AM

    All this aside Coach Chud looks like the kind of guy you see in the funnel cake line. I hope he’s the right coach for the job

  21. eleventyeight says: Jul 26, 2013 5:45 AM

    Haslam will get clear by preseason.

  22. excessivedrinking says: Jul 27, 2013 11:40 AM

    Pathetic owner for a perennially pathetic franchise.

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