Why now? Why sell the Browns now?

Why now? Why sell the Browns now?

Published Jul. 27, 2012 1:24 p.m. ET

By Pat McManamon and Zac Jackson

Signs point to the sale of the Cleveland Browns being completed this fall.

Sources with knowledge of the talks said discussions to sell the Browns have been taking place since the late spring, but can't be completed until October of 2012.

That is the expiration date of a 10-year moratorium on selling the team, a moratorium Al Lerner asked of his family before he passed away in October of 2002, according to a source familiar with the inner workings of the Browns front office.

That is one contributing factor in the team's sale taking place now.

The team would be purchased by Jimmy Haslam, a Tennessee businessman who is a minority owner of the Steelers. Haslam would obviously have to sell his interest in the Steelers before buying the Browns.

Another factor in the sale could be simple timing. Joe Banner resigned as president of the Eagles in the spring with the desire of putting together a group to buy a team.

Howard Eskin of NBC Channel 10 in Philadephia reported that Banner is part of Haslam's group. Eskin originally reported on June 7 that Banner wanted to buy a team, and the Browns were one that could be bought.

That led the Browns to release a statement that said, "the Browns are not for sale."
They might not have been … until Haslam's offer was known.

Nobody knows what Haslam is willing to pay, but the fact that Randy Lerner released a personal statement indicates the sale is real, and the price is fair.

The team will not move, though. The first thing Lerner asked for and received was a guarantee that the team not leave Cleveland.

Another factor in the timing could be that Randy Lerner's son decided to transfer to a school in New York after attending St. Ignatius as a freshman. Lerner and his son are close, and he had bought a new home in Lakewood in part because he wanted a place that worked for his son and him. The transfer to New York might affect the situation.

During its ownership, the Lerner family dealt with some significant criticism over losing, criticism that hurt Norma Lerner, Al's wife and Randy's mother. The family has been extremely generous to the city of Cleveland. The Cleveland Clinic's breast cancer recovery wing is named after Al and Norma Lerner, and the Lerner Research Institute is at the Clinic's main campus. Those are just the donations the public is aware of.

The Lerners frequently wondered at what they felt was excessive personal criticism as they tried to right the Browns listing ship.

How the sale affects the team as training camp starts will be interesting to watch.

Lerner said in his statement: "Care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season."

But the front office and coaching staff all will be working with an uncertain future, as new ownership often wants to hire its own people.

General manager Tom Heckert worked with Banner in Philadelphia, and coach Pat Shurmur was an assistant with the Eagles when Banner was in the front office.

The Browns opened camp with some excitement about new additions, especially on offense. But the uncertainty about the sale of the team will have an effect. It usually does, no matter how hard people work to see that it doesn't.