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Browns sale complete pending NFL approval

The SportsXchange

The sale of the Cleveland Browns from Randy Lerner to Jimmy Haslam was announced Thursday with a price tag in excess of $1 billion, including an initial payment of $700 million due this week.

The sale must be approved by NFL owners and a special session could be called in August if the league doesn't want to wait until a scheduled meeting in October.

"This is a very exciting time for my family and me," said Haslam. "To own such a storied franchise as the Cleveland Browns, with its rich tradition and history, is a dream come true. We are committed to keeping the team in Cleveland and seeing it get back to the elite of the NFL - something all Browns fans want and deserve.

"We plan to bring relentless dedication and hard work to every aspect of this organization, and we look forward to getting to know this team and community as quickly as possible. Our family is committed to becoming an integral part of the Cleveland community. We also want to thank Randy Lerner for his friendship, counsel and support during this process."

Former Eagles president Joe Banner is part of Haslam's football management team, which casts doubt on the future of current Browns executives, including team president Andy Reid and general manager Tom Heckert. Banner resigned as Eagles president, where he worked under childhood friend Jeffrey Lurie.

The transaction includes a second payment of more than $300 million.

The recent sale of the Jacksonville Jaguars from Wayne Weaver to Shahid Khan was unanimously approved by the league in less than two weeks. Khan bought the franchise for $760 million from Wayne Weaver in December 2011.

Haslam owned a minority interest in the Steelers and thereby isn't completely unknown in NFL circles. Haslam must divest interest in the team -- and the process is already in the works -- before he can be approved by existing NFL owners.

It is not known if Lerner will continue to own a smaller share of the Browns. One person can control a team by owning as little as 30 percent of all equity, according to league rules.

The Browns were valued at $977 million by Forbes, which reported that Haslam planned to pay $920 million for the team. He could still add minority owners.

Lerner also owns Aston Villa, the English soccer club, and took over controlling interest of the team in 2002 after his father died.

He issued the following statement Thursday:

"On behalf of my family and as trustee for the Lerner Family Trust, which holds the shares of the Cleveland Browns, I have agreed to sell the Browns to Jimmy Haslam and his family.

"I was approached regarding Mr. Haslam's interest several weeks ago. While as a fiduciary I have always felt it was my responsibility to listen to offers, I had not been approached with a proposal that felt as natural and complete as Mr. Haslam's. He had done a lot of work on the Browns and the City of Cleveland and first and foremost gave me his personal assurance the team would remain in Cleveland.

"As I was at first overwhelmed, I asked for a few days to consider the proposal during which time I consulted with my mother and sister. Over this short period we agreed that the proposal was strong, the buyers made sense and the time was right for us to move on.

"Going forward, we anticipate that the League will meet and vote on the deal and the closing is expected to follow shortly thereafter. During this time the organization will operate as it has in the past with all senior executives in place.

"While a statement like this is certainly part of the process, it couldn't possibly capture my feelings towards the Browns and the many people whom I feel very strong about. Those feelings therefore will need to be expressed in person. Notwithstanding, I feel a deep debt of gratitude to the loyal and passionate fan base, as well as the people I've met and worked with over the years. It has been a privilege to be involved with the Cleveland Browns and my only hope is that the Haslam family has the best of luck and that the Browns are restored to their rightful place among NFL Champions."
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