Steelers minority owner buys Browns

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Here's one to make Cleveland fans shake their heads: A partial owner of the hated Steelers is buying the Browns.

Randy Lerner reached a deal to sell the club to Tennessee truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam III -- a minority stockholder in the rival Steelers.

Lerner reportedly will sell 70 percent of the Browns to Haslam now, with the other 30 percent reverting to him four years after the closing date, but details have not officially been announced.

"This is a very exciting time for my family and me," Haslam said through the team.

"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."

Haslam scheduled a news conference at Browns headquarters for today.

Steelers owner Dan Rooney had praise for Haslam, even if he is buying a division rival.

"He was a great partner, a good man. He'll be very good for the league. He knows football," Rooney said.

As for buying a division rival?

"Hey, you have to be ready to play," Rooney said.

While the papers have been signed, the NFL still must approve the sale. Getting the nod from 24 of the 32 teams is required, and no date has been set for a vote because the sale has not been presented to the league yet. Approval is expected by the end of September.

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 a year ago 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 in 1996 and became the Ravens. The elder Lerner died in 2002.

Randy Lerner also is the owner of Aston Villa, a club in the English Premier League.

The expansion Browns entered the NFL in 1999 and have made the playoffs just once, a 2002 first-round loss to the Steelers. They've had only two winning records in 13 seasons and are 68-140 since they returned.


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First Published August 3, 2012 4:00 AM


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