The Cleveland Browns finalized a deal to sell the team to Jimmy Haslam III, the NFL Network confirmed Aug. 2.
The sale signals the end of a 51-year run of Jewish ownership.
Randy Lerner, who inherited the team after his father Al died in 2002, has held talks with Haslam the last few months. Discussion heated up between Lerner and the Tennessee businessman on July 27.
Al Lerner bought the Browns from Art Modell, who purchased the team in 1961 for $4 million. Modell, a New York City advertising executive, owned the team for 40 years until moving it to Baltimore in 1996. Cleveland was without an NFL team for three years until Al Lerner bought the rights to a new Cleveland Browns team for $530 million in 1998.
Modell, who was instrumental in creating Monday Night Football as a member of the NFL’s television committee, volunteered the Browns to play in the first prime-time Thanksgiving game in 1966 and the first Monday night game in Cleveland in 1970.
Before the sale was final, current head coach Pat Shurmur said the news didn’t change “what we’re trying to do as a football team” and that letting the trainers, coaches, players and support staff know about the proposed sale was his main concern.
At training camp in Berea, Browns president Mike Holmgren quelled speculation that the franchise may move from Cleveland for a second time.
“It’s my understanding that from the get-go that’s been one of the stipulations, and both principals understand that,” he said. “The Cleveland Browns are not going anywhere.”
In a prepared statement, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said, “The city took precautionary measures to insure that fans would be able to cheer on the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium for years to come.”
Jackson reminded fans the 30-year lease the team signed in 1999 continues until 2029 and said it contained a provision that “requires the Browns to play all their regular season and playoff home games in Cleveland Browns Stadium.”
The previous Municipal Stadium lease, for which the city obtained an injunction in 1995, did not have the same provision, Jackson said, adding that legal options are available if the current lease is not honored.