Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner admitted on Friday that he is in negotiations to sell the team to Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam after months of speculation.
"In connection with rumors and press inquiries, I can report that I've been approached by Mr. Jimmy Haslam, who is interested in making an investment in the Cleveland Browns," Lerner said in a statement. "We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private."
Lerner has owned the team since 2002 after the death of his father, Al. Since taking over the team in 2002, the Browns are 56-104 with a single playoff appearance. Browns president Paul Holmgren had denied for sale rumors in June, but Lerner proved him wrong.
Lerner mentioned simply an investment in the team by Haslam, who is the chief executive officer of Pilot Flying J Travel Centers, but it is assumed Haslam would take over Lerner's majority ownership share. The Browns have struggled mightily of late, but Forbes still values the team at $977 million.
That value deems the Browns the 30th most valuable sports team in the world, yet only the 20th best in the NFL. It is based on the Browns having "among the most loyal supporters in the NFL, allowing the team to charge one of the highest radio rights fees in football," according to Forbes.
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There is no timetable for when a deal may be completed but Lerner vowed to make sure "the process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season."