Randy Lerner used a play from his 2005 playbook...sell an inherited asset for big money.
In 2005, Lerner, then chairman of MBNA, helped sell the credit card bank to Bank of America. At the time, the Lerner family received $2.3 billion from the sale.
Now, Lerner is on the verge of the sale of the Cleveland Browns, which should gross at least $700 million. If you’re doing the math, that is $3 billion in proceeds from the two biggest assets his father left him.
So why sell now when things seem to be on the right track with the Browns? One reported reason is, his father asked to wait at least 10 years before considering a sale. The other two big reasons are, the value of team is at an all-time high of $977 million, according to Forbes, and he found the right guy.
Oh yeah, a guarantee that the team won't move doesn't hurt either.
The right guy in this case is Jimmy Haslam, a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and CEO of the Pilot/FlyingJ Company. The Haslam family is estimated at being worth $3 billion, giving them the cash to pull off this transaction.
The other asset Haslam brings to the table is, he is from a football family (father played at the University of Tennessee) and his work with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The majority of Browns fans are happy with the ownership change as long as the team doesn't move. The fans should also be hoping that stability is something Haslam has learned is the key to success in the NFL from working with the Steelers.
Although it is pretty rare for a new owner to not make a change to key decision-makers, one guy who should stay is Tom Heckert. The lifeblood of the team is personnel, and Heckert has built a young, talented football team that needs time to grow.
It has been reported that Joe Banner, the former Philadelphia Eagles president, is a part of the Haslam’s ownership group, which may help with stability. In theory, this should play out well for Heckert and Pat Shurmur, since they used to work with Banner in Philadelphia. It most likely means the end of Mike Holmgren as the president of the Browns, as Banner will probably take that position.
In the end, having Haslam as the owner will make it clear who is in charge of the Browns for the first time since Al Lerner died in 2002. One of the reasons the Browns haven’t succeeded is they lacked true leadership. That needed leadership starts at the top, and Lerner didn’t have the capability or desire to provide that leadership.
It appears Haslam has the capability and desire based on his success as a billionaire CEO. In the long run, Jimmy Haslam will finally provide the Browns the consistent leadership they need.