CHICAGO -- With a unanimous vote of 32-0, Jimmy Haslam’s purchase of a controlling interest in the Cleveland Browns was approved at the 2012 NFL Fall Owners’ Meetings in Chicago on Tuesday.
Haslam spoke with the media following the vote and expressed happiness in taking over the Browns franchise after getting the agreement with Randy Lerner approved.
“It’s obviously a very exciting day for our family, one that I guess, like a lot of families, we’ve dreamed about for a long, long time,” Haslam said. “What we’ve come to understand since Aug. 3, when we were introduced in Berea, Ohio, it’s made even more special that it’s the Cleveland Browns. I had always heard what a great football town and football area Cleveland and northeast Ohio is, but what we’ve experienced since Aug. 3 is nothing short of phenomenal. This is truly one of the great, iconic NFL brands.
“It’s a very special place and, as we have said on numerous occasions, we’re going to do everything we possibly can and work as hard as we possibly can to bring a winning team to the fans of Cleveland. Whether they’re in Cleveland, northeast Ohio or one of the many Browns Backers around the country, we’re going to work hard for them.”
Haslam also announced that Joe Banner will become the Browns’ chief executive officer, effective Oct. 25. Banner worked with the Philadelphia Eagles in various capacities, including senior vice president and, later, president.
Haslam said Mike Holmgren, who became team president in 2010, will retire at the end of the 2012 season. Haslam said Holmgren will spend the next “three or four months” working with Banner.
“Mike will work very closely with us over the next three or four months to ensure that transition goes as well as possible,” Haslam said. “I know that he has been and still is committed to doing everything he can to help make the Cleveland Browns a better football team.
“I don’t think we could have two better people to help us turn this transition around, so we’re very excited about that. This is the only personnel change we’re going to make until the end of the season and I’m not at all saying we’re going to make changes at the end of the season. Candidly, with Mike deciding the role no longer fit him, we thought it was important to bring somebody in so we do have a good transition, where we hit the ground running after the season.”
Banner was one of the many football people Haslam talked with since the Aug. 3 announcement of his purchase of a controlling interest in the Browns.
“His track record in Philadelphia is outstanding,” Haslam said. “His commitment, work, drive, passion and intelligence to help make the Browns a winner is something that we’re very excited about.”
Haslam called Cleveland “a great town” and “great football community.”
“We feel very privileged to own the team,” Haslam said. “It’s really an asset of the community and we’re going to do everything we can to increase the value of that asset and candidly, the way you do that is you put a winning team on the field.”
During his press conference, Haslam thanked the Lerner family, particularly, the late Al Lerner, who brought the team back to Cleveland after the original franchise was moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, his widow, Norma, and son, Randy.
Randy Lerner took ownership of the Browns when his father passed away in Oct. of 2002.
“The Haslam family owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Lerner family,” Haslam said. “It’s been a great experience with the Lerner Family and we look forward to working closely with them in the future.”
MODEL FOR SUCCESS
Haslam purchased a Browns team that has had a winning record in two seasons (2002 and 2007) and qualified for the postseason only once, in 2002, since returning to the NFL in 1999. However, he comes to Cleveland after successfully running his family’s business, Pilot Flying J, and plans on bringing the same type of approach to the Browns.
“There’s a lot of good franchises out there, but I think you have to take what works for others and still be yourself,” Haslam said. “We’re going to be involved, but involved in the proper way. I have five people that reported to me at Pilot Flying J. They’re all smarter than I am and they’re all better at their role than I am and we let them do their jobs.
“On the other hand, we question them, we push them, we challenge them, we hold them accountable and I think we’ll use that same managerial style. Several people, including one very prominent owner said, ‘Just use the basic instincts you’ve had that have been successful in helping build your business and do the same in running an NFL franchise.’ That feels right to us.”
Haslam attended Sunday’s Browns game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and said the fans were in a celebratory mood that reminded him of the days as a minority owner of the Steelers when the team won the AFC Championship Game.
He wants the team to continue building off the Cincinnati win over the remaining 10 games of the 2012 regular season, which continues against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“You want to see a positive direction,” Haslam said. “It’s getting better and I think you want to see improvement, continued improvement and you want to see them play hard. If you’ve seen our team, they’ve played hard in every game. The Cincinnati game, Trent (Richardson) gets hurt and we faced adversity. They hung in tough and actually, played their best football all year in the fourth quarter and it’s great to see.”