July 27, 2012
Holmgren Speaks About Pending Sale of Browns
By Fred Greetham
OBR Senior Reporter/Fox Sports Ohio.com
BEREA—In the midst of all the talk of Randy Lerner selling the majority stake of the Browns to Jimmy Haslam, the Browns officially kicked off their training camp with their first full squad practice.
However as the players were taking the field just before 2 p.m., Mike Holmgren met with the media for seven minutes to address the impending sale of the Browns to Haslam.
"It's an ongoing thing right now," Holmgren said. "Randy's number one concern in our meetings the last couple days is that is doesn't become a distraction for the coaching staff and the players.
"They have a lot of work to do. We're in the business of winning football games. We have a good young football team moving in the direction we all want it to go. That's his number one concern."
Holmgren said there will be a lot of speculation and rumors going on, but nothing is final until the NFL says it is.
"Things will be written and things will be said," he said. "There are certain things we can't talk about. We will try to sort out as many things as possible, but the league has certain protocols that they have to vote on and so forth.
"The number one thing is our owner wanted me to pass to you is this is a great community and I think we're getting close (to being a good team), and he doesn't want anything to disrupt what our team is doing."
Holmgren said the process has been going on this summer to get to the point it is.
"Randy and I were in constant contact this summer and he has kept me abreast of every single thing that has gone on," Holmgren said. "He has been more than fair. Clearly there had to be some confidentiality. The only thing a little different is the timing. Normally, these things, as you know that have been in the league don't (occur now)."
Holmgren said Lerner feels it might be the right time to move on.
"He has a deep love for this team and has been with the franchise nice his father passed," Holmgren said. "He's been trying his best to do the right thing. I think his kids are getting older and his life has changed a bit.
"(I think) he felt if the right person stepped forward if he was going to sell the team and apparently all the stars have all aligned."
Holmgren is in his third year of a five year contract he agreed to when joining the Browns and he was asked about his future.
"My future is bright," he said. "That will be answered down the road. You control the things you can control and do the best you can. I think we've done a lot of great things here."
There's speculation that Holmgren might leave with a new owner coming in, but he says he intends to honor his contract.
"To me, a contract is a contract," he said. "I've said that before and tried to be honest about that and we'll deal with those things when we go down the road. Right now I'm the president of the team."
Holmgren wouldn't comment as to how much of the Browns Lerner would be selling. Some reports said as much as 90 percent of the team.
"What I can say is he is giving up a controlling interest," he said. "As details come out, we'll know more, but it's a controlling interest."
Holmgren did say that the Browns will not move from Cleveland.
"My understanding is from the get go that was the understanding between the principles," Holmgren said. "The Cleveland Browns are not going anywhere."
The Browns signed a 30-year lease with the city of Cleveland in 1999 and have 16 more years on the lease.
Holmgren said he was taken a little off guard when he first heard from Lerner about the possible sale.
"I think you're always a little bit surprised when something of this magnitude takes place, but it happens."
Holmgren said Pat Shurmur told the players and coaches Friday morning concerning what was going on.
"Pat told the players today and I plan to talk to the people in the building," he said. "But what everyone needs to know is that nothing is finalized until the league approves it."
Holmgren said he doesn't know the timetable in terms of the sale being approved, nor has he met the new prospective owner.
"I have not," he said. "I‘ve read he is a very impressive man when you read about him. The people I've talked to that know him say he's a very impressive man."
Haslam is from Tennessee and is the CEO of the Pilot Flying J travel centers and truck stations. He is a minority owner of the Steelers and will have to sell his share to buy the Browns.
Speculation started swirling Friday morning after Lerner issued the following statement:
"In connection with current rumors and press inquiries, I can report that I've been approached by Mr. Jimmy Haslam, who is interested in making an investment in the Cleveland Browns. We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private. Given that any transaction would require League approval, care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season. We will share further details or make an announcement if it becomes necessary."