In a follow-up to a story first broken by internet website Pro Football Talk in early 2004, TheOBR.com learned Friday evening that Browns owner Randy Lerner has elected to sell a portion of the Browns franchise as part of a strategy to exit his "custodial role" as owner of the Cleveland Browns.
It has been reported exclusively to this corner that Lerner intends to sell 23% of the franchise to a consortium headed up by actor Tom Cruise and believed to be backed at least in part by the Church of Scientology. The agreement allows the consortium to purchase the team in full after one year of what is termed to be "due diligence".
While surprising in its suddenness, the news comes after successive disappointing seasons for the team, which has hungered for cash after losing money each year since returning to the league in 1999.
In Cruise's consortium, the organization finds a well-heeled new group of owners with a passion to win and money to burn.
"This is a win-win and an inevitable branching out and diversification of the Cruise and CoS portfolio", local investment analyst Melvin Firestone told the OBR, "It makes a tremendous amount of sense for both Lerner and the Cruise team. Lerner is able to put himself in a position to sell the entire club at a significant profit, while the Church of Scientology manages to find a business with even greater profit margins and cult-like devotion than the religion biz".
NFL Sources tell the OBR that the year-long "due diligence" time period will be used to thrash agents of Xenu out of the organization while ridding the team of negative engrams caused by sources as diverse as misguided thetans, overuse of psychiatric techniques, and the "resonant aura of Dwight Clark screwing up drafts like Brooke Shields on an anti-depressant bender".
While the cross-marketing of football and Scientology (Brownsintology) at first seems an odd coupling, the ability to selectively target fans for $5,999 courses to put themselves into an Operating Thetan state could have considerable appeal to individuals who have been conditioned to pay $8 for a beer and eager for another purpose in life after watching a 41-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Eve.
"Browns fans have been somewhat in a state of shock since mid-2005 when they realized that they actually paid to see Spergon Wynn play quarterback during the 2000 season", a Scientology spokesperson told us in a phone conversation Friday evening. "There's obviously some negative energy there, and I'm sure that the E-Meters are in the black throughout that city. We can fix that, not only by assuring that Wynn is not allowed within city limits, but by providing free counseling sessions whenever someone fills out an MBNA card application".
The Cruise connection will also help to return a glossy Hollywood flavor to the club, not seen since Municipal Stadium appeared extensively in "The Fortune Cookie" back in 1966. The team has already announced that popular singer Isaac Hayes will sing the national anthem at this year's season opener. Rumors of the team's 2006 season being recorded in a high-profile documentary titled "Remember the Thetans" have already hit the Hollywood gossip blogs.
While Cruise himself could not be reached to comment on the reports, a spokesperson for the actor reminded the OBR that "Mr. Cruise and his fiancee love organized spectator sports, which is only natural for a burly actor who enjoys seeing violent contact between large men."
"Cruise understands what is important to Browns fans", an NFL source confirmed last evening, "This will go over big." While the actor probably will be at the Stadium only on rare occasions, he is already helping to brainstorm marketing concepts, such as proposed "Pittsburgh believes in Psychotherapy" t-shirts and a "Matt Lauer is a Weenie" day.
"It's a fit made in marketing heaven", we were told by a Hollywood insider. "Tom is starring in Mission Impossible 3 this Summer. Well, what do you think Romeo Crennel is dealing with? Mission pretty freaking unlikely. Plus, the parallels between MI3 villain Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character and ex-Browns offensive lineman Enoch Demar are inescapable."
- J. Smith