Randy Lerner has sold the Browns to Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam III, the Beacon Journal confirmed today.
The sale is for more than $1 billion, ESPN reported. NFL Network also reported the deal is done.
The sale will be broken into two phases with Haslam first obtaining controlling interest in the team for more than $700 million then eventually paying more than $300 million to complete the deal, according to ESPN.
Browns radio play-by-play announcer and WKYC sports anchor Jim Donovan reported last week that Lerner would initially retain a 30 percent stake in the team as a method of paying money owed to former coaches and executives, most of which will come off the books this year.
The Browns have yet to make an announcement about the sale.
The deal must be reviewed by the NFL's finance committee, which will submit a report to the league's teams. Then the owners will vote, and 24-of-32 must approve the sale for it to be finalized.
NFL ownership could vote on Haslam's purchase at its next scheduled meeting in October, or Commissioner Roger Goodell could call for a special meeting to be held as early as this month to push the deal through sooner.
Either way, no holdups are expected in the approval process. Haslam has been a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2008, so the league is already familiar with him.
Haslam, 58, is the president and CEO of travel-center empire Pilot Flying J. His younger brother is Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Haslam must sell his stake in the Steelers for his purchase of the Browns to become official. Plans have already been made for Haslam to do so, ESPN reported.
Former Philadelphia Eagles President Joe Banner is a part of Haslam's ownership group, according to NFL Network. With Banner involved, the future of Browns President Mike Holmgren is uncertain.
"Obviously he helped bring the Eagles from when the Lurie [family] bought it to what they are now," said Browns linebacker Chris Gocong, who was drafted by the Eagles when Banner was the president in 2006. "I think he's a great businessman, and we'll see what he can do here."
Gocong said he had a good relationship with Banner, who is also a former boss of Browns coach Pat Shurmur, General Manager Tom Heckert and offensive coordinator Brad Childress. Banner, though, wasn't overly visible, Gocong said.
"He was more of like a behind-the-scenes guy, more of the business guy," Gocong said. "As players, you really didn't see him too much in the locker room and stuff like that."
News of the sale broke last Friday, when Lerner released a statement to confirm his negotiations with Haslam. ESPN's report about a deal being reached surfaced this morning while Shurmur held his post-practice news conference.
Shurmur said he's confident a change in ownership won't derail the team during the upcoming season.
"I have no fear about any of that because I trust my coaches, and I trust the players and I've watched the work they've done based on the conversation of this last week," Shurmur said. "I've watched the work that they're doing, and I have no fear. I think we're moving full steam ahead. That doesn't bother me one bit at this point. My concern is getting this team ready to play, and players understand that message and they're doing a good job."
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita echoed Shurmur's sentiments.
"We all know that it was looming," Fujita said. "We all know that it's kind of big picture hanging over our heads, but no one's going to let that break our focus."
Browns tight end Evan Moore doesn't think it will affect the players this year, either.
"[It means] absolutely nothing, at least to me personally," Moore said. "I can't speak for everyone in [the locker room]. It doesn't change my job. As long as I'm here and I'm wearing a Browns jersey, it'll mean the same to me."
Lerner watched practice from the field Saturday and Wednesday. He took control of the Browns after his father, Al, died in 2002. Al Lerner purchased the team in 1998 for $530 million.
Lerner and his son, Max, moved back to New York after spending last year in Cleveland while Max attended St. Ignatius High School as a freshman, Holmgren said Saturday. Lerner, 50, also owns the Premier League soccer team Aston Villa.
"I enjoyed him in the limited time we spent together," Fujita said. "I always enjoyed having conversations with him. I enjoyed his son Max quite a bit, even went to watch his son play last year in a freshman football game, and I just had a good time. Max was one of those guys that was fun to have around. He's good in the locker room. Again, I don't know Randy too well, but in the time that we did spend together, I liked him."
Holmgren said Lerner was in a good mood last weekend, but selling the team was not necessarily easy for him.
"He's an emotional guy," Holmgren said. "He loves this place. Anything like this is going to be a very tough, emotional decision."
Regardless of how Lerner feels about it, his decision is now final.
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