Another report surfaced Sunday that outlines the course of action Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is expected to take if he’s forced to relinquish control of the team as a result of his family’s truck-stop empire, Pilot Flying J, being targeted in an ongoing criminal investigation into a fraud scheme.
Jason La Canfora of CBS reported that Haslam could turn the day-to-day operations of the Browns over to his father, Jim Haslam. SportsBusiness Journal reported the same contingency plan last month. La Canfora, citing unnamed sources, reported the deal has already been signed off on and would go into place should conditions arise whereby the younger Haslam was suspended from serving as the owner.
Last week, Browns CEO Joe Banner declined to comment on the SportsBusiness Journal report in an interview with the Beacon Journal, but he addressed the topic by referring to a statement Haslam made July 25 when training camp began.
“Jimmy’s been really public in saying that his family’s going to own this team for a very long time,” Banner said. “And I think people should trust that.”
Sources told La Canfora it is an extremely remote possibility that Haslam would be in a position whereby the NFL would prompt him to divest himself from the Browns entirely. But if that happens, sources told La Canfora, that the league has identified potential owners who might be able to assume control of the club in an expeditious manner.
The FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided the headquarters of Pilot Flying J April 15 as part of an ongoing criminal probe into a fuel rebate fraud scheme. Seven former employees have since pleaded guilty to federal charges. Haslam, the CEO of Pilot Flying J, has repeatedly denied prior knowledge of the fraud. He is facing several civil lawsuits.