(Berea) - Jimmy Haslam III addressed the Cleveland media this afternoon as the new owner of the Cleveland Browns. After making a brief statement Haslem took questions from the media.
In opening, Haslen said this is zero chance that he would move the team, and declined to discuss any personnel issues because Randy Lerner remains the owner until the team owners approve the deal, probably in during their next meeting October.
Haslem promised to be an active owner, and said "We will be out there and available," and suggested he will frequently sit the fans in the stands, and not always in the owners box.
Haslem says wants to create a new culture in Berea exclaiming, "we want to bring a winning team back to Cleveland."..."There is no reason why this can't be a winning franchise."
Haslam, appeared wearing a pale blue shirt, a navy blue suit, an orange-patterned tie and a Cleveland Browns pin in his lapel.
Haslam said he is committed to Cleveland and his family has started looking for a home here, but will keep their residence in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Haslem adds that he may be open to changing the Brown's uniforms, and might eventually sell stadium naming rights.
When it comes to the Browns difficulties over the past few decades Haslen said, "I knew the Browns had struggled over the years...I don't pretend to be an expert on the Cleveland Browns but I hope to learn quickly...I think it's a young, exciting team that's on the upswing..I am a firm believer in athletics..."
Regarding the team's president Haslam said, "I sense there is a strong feeling that Mike (Holmgren) has the team headed in the right direction..."
Outgoing Browns majority owner Randy Lerner issued this statment Thursday evening:
"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."
While the papers have been signed, the NFL must approve the sale. ESPN reported the sale price was more than $1 billion.
For comparison, the Miami Dolphins sold at a value of more than $1 billion in 2009.
The Browns were valued at $977 million last year by Forbes magazine, 20th in the NFL.
Lerner, whose family has owned the franchise since it returned to the NFL in 1999, first announced he was in negotiations to sell the club last week.
The late Al Lerner, Randy's father, purchased the franchise from the NFL in 1998 for $530 million after the original Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens.
The expansion Browns entered the league in 1999 and have made the playoffs once, a 2002 first-round loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've had only two winning records in 13 seasons and are 68-140 since they returned.
Al Lerner died in 2002.
Haslam has been a minority investor in the Steelers - Cleveland's most hated rival - since 2008, and is the president and CEO of Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. He is the older brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Haslam would be the sixth majority owner of the Browns: team founder Mickey McBride (1945-1953), David Jones (1953-1961), Art Modell (1961-1995), Al Lerner (1998-2002), and Randy Lerner (2002-present). An NFL trust also oversaw the inactive franchise from 1996-1998.
Get breaking news sent to your mobile phone. Text "news" to 21095.
(Copyright © 2012 by Clear Channel and the Associated Press, all rights reserved.)