Ron Leonhardt, Jr. can't remember a time in his life when the Browns weren't top of mind.
The lifelong Clevelander and founder/CEO of CrossCountry Mortgage was raised to be a Browns fan at an early age. His dad brought him along to big, family watch parties, where everyone would pile around the TV to watch the Kardiac Kids and, later, the Bernie Kosar-led teams of the mid-80s. After some of the Browns' biggest road wins, Leonhardt would head to the airport to greet the players and coaches after they landed. Years later and just days removed from the birth of his first child, Leonhardt vividly remembers watching their first Browns game together on the couch — a surprisingly dominant, 2003 Sunday Night Football victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
"I don't think there's a period in my life where the Browns have not been an integral part of our daily family discussions," Leonhardt said. "It's been ingrained in me ever since I can remember."
Leonhardt — like most Cleveland kids who grew up singing "Bernie, Bernie" every time it played on the radio — dreamt of playing for the Browns. Though he went on to play football at nearby Baldwin Wallace University and even got a few opportunities to practice at the team facility in Berea, Leonhardt never got the chance to be a part of the team.
That changed in a big way Thursday.
The Cleveland Browns and CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC have announced a long-term partnership, which includes naming rights to establish the "CrossCountry Mortgage Campus" for the team's real estate footprint in Berea. CrossCountry Mortgage — the company Leonhardt started 18 years ago in a small Cleveland office with just a couple of family members and close friends — is now the official mortgage partner of the Cleveland Browns.
"My passion for the Browns and the city's passion for the Browns, it means a lot," said Leonhardt, who is also a longtime Season Ticket Member and Suiteholder. "I didn't get the opportunity to play for them so this is the closest I can get to be a part of the organization. I'm super excited to partner with them."
"Things tend to come full circle. It's going back to where some of my greatest memories have been."
Leonhardt has led the way as CrossCountry Mortgage has rapidly grown into a top-10 retail mortgage lender that provides industry-leading services in all 50 states through a network of more than 500 offices. The family-owned company, which employs approximately 6,800 people, has been honored seven times on the Inc. 5000 list of the nation's fastest-growing private businesses and has been recognized five times as the NorthCoast 99 winner, representing the best workplaces for top talent in Northeast Ohio.
“We are a national business with Cleveland at our core. We have Cleveland roots and that good midwest grit and passion that really does permeate across the country.” Ron Leonhardt, Jr.
"We say here we're dedicated to getting it done. That comes from the top. Ron treats this like a team sport," said Laura Soave, CrossCountry Mortgage's Chief Brand Officer. "The mortgage process is not easy, and it takes a lot of effort and coordination to make it happen efficiently and quickly for our clients. Everyone has their specialty but the only way our clients win is if everyone truly works together. Ron is our coach/quarterback that makes sure everything is happening."
"We are a national business with Cleveland at our core. We have Cleveland roots and that good midwest grit and passion that really does permeate across the country."
In June, CrossCountry Mortgage began construction of a $46 million corporate campus in Cleveland's historic Superior Arts District at 2152-2160 Superior Avenue. Miles (or blocks) away from the original State Road office, the 168,000-square-foot downtown footprint will bring more than 600 full-time jobs to Cleveland and includes a 4,600-square-foot training center to help prepare thousands of members to become successful mortgage professionals.
"We have a deep loyalty for Clevelanders and share their passion for the city," Leonhardt said. "I'm excited to be a part of the revitalization in Cleveland and trying to lead by example. Hopefully, other companies move down and become a part of this."
In Berea, CrossCountry Mortgage will be at the center of the team's strategic vision and ongoing plans to expand its home. The Browns CrossCountry Mortgage Campus will provide the team and Browns fans with first-class resources in all aspects of football and business operations, as well as enhanced opportunities to host additional events in the Northeast Ohio community.
CrossCountry Mortgage will also be the presenting partner of "Browns Live: Training Camp" and also have entitlement to our premiere, four-time Emmy Award-Winning Program, Building the Browns.
“I'm excited to be a part of the revitalization in Cleveland and trying to lead by example.” Ron Leonhardt, Jr.
The digital streaming program returns in 2021 to ensure Browns fans across the globe have special opportunities to enjoy training camp this season, including the two joint practices with the New York Giants, August 19-20. The partnership will also feature engagement opportunities with the team's youth football initiatives, as well as further advance CrossCountry Mortgage's long-standing support of military veterans.
Ultimately, it was a partnership that made too much sense, and it's been in the making ever since Leonhardt can remember.
"The company values really do align," Soave said. "This isn't just a corporate partnership. The Browns' number one fan has come home to become part of the team to better serve his customers, his employees and the city he's called home."