CLEVELAND — Jimmy Haslam III has been the minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers for close to four years, but that’s not where the bulk of his money comes from. He is the President of Pilot Travel Centers, which is headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is the largest retail operator of travel centers and truck-stops in the country, according to the company website. Pilot is also one of the largest wholesale fuel providers in the U.S.
The 58-year-old is a die-hard Steelers fan. He was quoted in an interview on Steelers.com as saying, “I am 1,000 percent a Steelers fan!”
Browns fans have expressed concern that Haslam might take the Browns out of town, should he purchase the team. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told Fox 8 News that can’t happen under the terms of the contract and lease the organization has with the city.
“I don’t have any concerns, be honest with you, about whether the Browns [are] going to be in Cleveland,” said the Mayor.
Jackson was serving on Cleveland City Council back in 1999 when the Browns were given a 30-year lease to the stadium. He and his colleagues on Council fought hard for a deal that would require the team to play all regular season and playoff home games at the stadium while preventing the team from leaving until the year 2029.
“That’s why the arrangements on the lease and the contract [were] made in a way that it gave the city great protection and it’s very tight,” he said.
Councilman Mike Polensek was serving on Council at the same time as Jackson. He said, right now, he’s feeling optimistic about the possibility of a new owner who might take an interest in Cleveland beyond its football team.
“You never know, it could work to the advantage, if you have the right ownership or individual who has drive and passion as Dan Gilbert has brought to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who’s to say what could not happen here,” said Polensek.
The Cleveland Browns were worth $530 million when Albert Lerner bought the team in 1998. Forbes currently estimates the team’s value at $977 million.