BEREA - James Haslam III hit all the right notes Friday in a press conference to introduce him as the fifth owner in Browns' history.
His opening statement reassured fans that the Browns are staying in Cleveland. He went on to say that he will have passion and an unwavering, hands-on commitment to bringing the franchise a consistent winner for the first time since it returned in an expansion format in 1999.
Haslam made sure that fans are aware that his former 1,000 percent commitment to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a minority owner has had a change of color to brown and orange.
The Associated Press
New Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III gestures during a news conference in Berea on Friday. The new owner of the Browns says his mission is to bring “winning back to Cleveland” and proclaimed there’s “zero chance” he'll move the club out of town.
"We had a relationship with that other team (Steelers) down the road that wears black and gold and we used to be 1,000 percent for but we're not anymore," Haslam said. "When we got involved with that other team, we let the owners and the league know that if we ever had the chance to become the majority owner of a team that we would have interest.
"They called us in May and said it looks like a team may become available but they wouldn't tell us who. Then in late June when they told us it was the Cleveland Browns, we were fired up to the max because we've had the opportunity to see how important football is to this community and how great and passionate the fans are."
According to details of the deal, Haslam will initially put up $700 million of the approximately $1 billion value of the franchise to gain controlling interest. He will put up the remaining $300 million at a later date.
The deal is expected to be approved at a meeting of NFL owners within the next couple of weeks. Until then Randy Lerner will continue to serve as owner.
Because he hasn't officially assumed ownership, Haslam refused to address details about the futures of team president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur. Haslam also declined to comment on reports that former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner will join his group and serve as president.
Heckert clearly didn't want to comment when approached shortly after practice.
"We didn't talk anything about (the future)," Heckert said. "We were out watching practice. That was all we've done."
When asked how he couldn't be concerned, Heckert looked upset and said, "Everything is good" before leaving to meet a group of fans.
Shurmur has tried to keep speculation about the sale behind closed doors and far away from the practice field. He met briefly with Haslam, his father James and his wife Susan prior to practice.
"I saw passion in their faces," Shurmur said. "I felt passion in their handshakes. That's what I can say about that at this point."
Haslam, CEO and president of Pilot Flying J, stood up during the entire press conference, cutting the image of a successful southern businessman. Pilot is the largest operator of travel centers and plazas in North America.
Haslam's successes at Pilot allowed him to purchase a minority share of the Steelers. He feels the time he spent with the Rooney family, which owns the Steelers, prepared him for being majority owner of a team.
"I understand the rivalry between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Our main goal is to return that to a real rivalry," Haslam said. "I'll say this: the Rooneys are everything you've heard and read they are. They're class people and do things right.
"I take no credit for the four years that we were there, but two Super Bowls won one and playoffs three years. They do things the right way. They have the Steeler way of doing things. We'll now have the Browns way of doing things. They build through the draft. Those are the things I learned there."
Haslam came across as the complete opposite of Lerner, who preferred a hands-off policy with the football operations and a low-profile public image. Haslam undoubtedly ingratiated himself to fans when he said he might sit in the stands at the first home exhibition game.
"I thought why not sit in the stands rather than in the owner's box and see what this facility feels like sitting like a regular fan," he said. "So we'll be out there and available."
Haslam addressed two major issues naming rights for the stadium and the uniforms. The Lerner family refused to accept naming rights that would have generated millions of dollars in annual revenue. The family also refused to change the design of the uniforms.
Haslam said naming rights would eventually be awarded. Changing the uniforms hasn't been decided.
"The reality today is you live in a marketing world," Haslam said. "After Randy and I reached an agreement the other day, the first owner that called me was Robert Kraft. He said 'come up and see me and I'll tell you everything about football and business I know.' "
There could be plenty of changes in the future.