Browns' Haslam embarrassed after 'painful 48 hours'

The Sports Xchange

Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said he has never been more embarrassed than he was last week reading an FBI affidavit of the fraud investigation into Pilot Flying J failing to process customer rebates.

Haslam said Monday that he placed several members of the Pilot administrative staff on leave while the legal matter is rectified. Haslam said an independent investigation of "what did or did not happen" is underway and could be completed by July.

Haslam is not charged with a crime.

The FBI, citing current and former employees, claimed Haslam was aware of the fraudulent activity by the gas station and convenience store chain. His attorney, Aubrey Harwell, denies Haslam bears any responsibility beyond "doing what is right to repay any customers owed anything" and claims he wasn't aware of improprieties.

"That was the most painful 48 hours I've experienced in the business," said Haslam.

Haslam purchased the Browns last year from Randy Lerner for more than $1 billion. Lerner still maintains 30 percent of the team, but his shares will transfer to Haslam in four years. The NFL is following the matter closely, but spokesperson Greg Aiello said last week that no action was planned at this time.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Friday that Haslam's brother, Bill, the governor of Tennessee, released a statement saying he "has faith in Pilot to do the right thing, and he continues to have absolute faith in his brother's integrity."

Harwell also represented former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo in 1997, when DeBartolo was embroiled in an extortion case that involved a payment of several hundred thousand dollars for a riverboat gambling license in Louisiana.