BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren confirmed on Friday afternoon that Browns owner Randy Lerner is selling his controlling interest in the team.
At an impromptu media session outside the Browns practice facility Holmgren said that talks between Lerner and Jimmy Haslam III have been on-going all summer.
“Randy’s number one concern in our meetings in the last couple of days is that it not become a distraction to the coaching staff and players,” said Holmgren.
Holmgren told the assembled media that Lerner has stipulated from the onset of negotiations with Haslam III that the Browns not be moved.
“The Cleveland Browns aren’t going anywhere,” said Holmgren. “They’re going to stay.”
As for his own future with the team Holmgren said, “That will probably be answered down the road. And you try to control the thing you can control and do the best you can. I think we’ve done a lot of great things here, to this point but we’ll see.”
Early Friday Lerner released a statement addressing rumors about the team’s ownership.
The statement read:
“In connection with current 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. We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private. Given that any transaction would require League approval, care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season. We will share further details or make an announcement if it becomes necessary.”
Randy Lerner has been the owner of the team since the death of his father, Al Lerner, in October of 2002.
Al was the team’s owner since it returned to the league in 1999. He won the rights to the new franchise in 1998 by placing a $530 million bid with the league.
In addition to the Browns, Randy has also owned a Premier League soccer club, Aston Villa, since 2006.
According to Forbes the Browns are the 30th most valuable team in professional sports. The team is valued at $977 million.
Mayor Frank Jackson’s office issued a statement on the potential sale on Friday afternoon.
The statement read:
“The Cleveland Browns have some of the most loyal and passionate fans which have helped make it one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The city took precautionary measures to ensure that fans would be able to cheer on the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium for years to come.
The 30-year lease to the Cleveland Browns commenced in 1999 and continues to 2029. This lease, like the prior Municipal Stadium lease for which the City of Cleveland successfully obtained an injunction in 1995, requires the Browns to play all their regular season and playoff home games in the Cleveland Browns Stadium. If this requirement is not honored the city has legal options that could be pursued if necessary.”