Jimmy Haslam Press Conference - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Jimmy Haslam Press Conference

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Mike Holmgren

(Opening statement)- "Welcome. This is a great day for the Cleveland Browns organization and it's my privilege and honor to introduce to you the new owner of the Cleveland Browns. Now understand, I've talked to you before about league protocols and all of those things and we are following those things and it's going to happen down the road here, but this really is a special day for me and this organization. I would like to say I've known these folks for years, but actually I've known them for a day, but it doesn't take too long for anybody to understand their passion, how much they care, the type of people they are and you'll get to know them that way. As far as introductions before Jimmy (Haslam) comes up, his dad Jim Haslam, his wife Dee and now I take great pleasure in introducing to you Jimmy Haslam."

Jimmy Haslam

"Thanks Mike, I appreciate it. First of all I want to just start by saying this, I can't tell you how excited our family is to be a part of Cleveland and more importantly the Cleveland Browns. I know there are some people who think that maybe we might want to move the team out of Cleveland and I can assure you there is zero chance of that happening. Just a little history, we've had a relationship with that other team down the road that wears black and gold that we used to be 1,000 percent for, but we're not anymore. When we got involved with that other team, we let the owners of that other team and the league know that if we ever had the chance to become the majority owner of a team 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. In late June, when they told us it was the Cleveland Browns, we were fired up to the max because we have had the opportunity to see how important football is to this community and how great and how passionate the fans are and we saw it firsthand last night. We drove up to the hotel, got out of the car, we were getting our bags out, the bellman comes up, ‘Are you guys the new guys for the Browns?' ‘Yes, we are.' Five minutes on how important winning is, how big the Browns are etcetera, etcetera. We went to dinner with Mike last night and it was the same way. Everybody is fired up and excited about football and when people say, ‘Why the Cleveland Browns?' That's why we say it, because the excitement and the importance of football, the Browns to this community is immense and we're all about that and I can assure you we have one mission and one mission only and that's to bring winning back to Cleveland. That's the sole thing we're focused on and I want everybody know it and understand it. You don't know us yet. We're going to spend time here this afternoon. We're going to be here a lot and you'll have the opportunity to get to know us, but we're really excited about the opportunity. We want to bring a winning team back to Cleveland.

"Let me say a couple more things and then I'll take questions. Believe it or not, the first time I ever met Randy Lerner was July 2 and today is August 3 so it's been a very short time frame. During that time period, as you might imagine, we spent a lot of time together in person and a lot of time together on the phone and even though it was a very short time period, I developed a very close relationship with Randy. I have the upmost respect for him and his family. His mother Norma called me this morning to congratulate us. We had a very gracious five-ten minute talk and I can't say enough nice things about the Lerner family and Randy and how he's conducted himself during this time period. I suspect we will be friends for a long, long time.

"The last thing I want to say before I take questions, because I know this is the first question everybody is going to ask is, what about personnel decisions? What about this and what about that? Let me just say this, first of all Randy still owns the team and as Mike said there is league protocol and the league has to have an official meeting, that will be in October and until then Randy will own the team. So it's his team and it would be very presumptuous and very poor form for us to make any personnel decisions or comments. The second thing I would say is Mike - it hadn't even been really 24 hours and we've had a brief introduction to a lot of people with the Cleveland Browns organization. We've had some great visits. I can tell you, and you have all been around here longer than I have, the excitement for this season is tremendous. We just had lunch with Pat (Shurmur). He and his staff are fired up. I met Brandon (Weeden), met Trent (Richardson), I told Trent being from Tennessee I was glad to be on the same team as him as opposed to being on a different team, but it would be the wrong thing for us to do and we're not going to make any comments at all on any current personnel situations or any future personnel situations and hopefully you can appreciate that. So in summary, we are very, very excited about this opportunity and we can't wait to get going, we have a lot to learn. Dad and I were taking showers after practice and he said, ‘What do you think?' and I said. ‘I think we have a lot to learn,' but we think it's an unbelievable opportunity here and if you walk out of here and only remember one thing, remember the Haslam family is 100 percent committed to making the Cleveland Browns a winner again."

(On why fans should be optimistic that he is the guy who will turn the Browns around)- "I hate to refer back to our business track record, but that's all I know to refer back to. If you look at our main company, Pilot Flying J, it's been in business for 53 years. We have a very, very senior group of individuals, a very set culture and candidly that's how we plan on doing it here. We're going to devote whatever time necessary it takes to get things right here in Cleveland and I believe they're on the right path now. We're going to take whatever steps necessary to bring winning football back to Cleveland."

(On if there is any chance that the owners vote would happen before the regular season)- "I have no idea. I've heard speculation that it could happen sooner, but in our minds it will happen when the regular league vote happens in October and we're geared and focus that way."

(On why this franchise was a good buy as a business man)- "Let me say this, when you're buying a NFL franchise you have to set the normal cash-flow multiples aside and look at it differently, but having been involved in the Steelers, that investment was a positive one for us and we're sold on the NFL. We're sold on the NFL and with the new collective bargaining agreement in place and the new TV contract and with a great iconic, storied franchise like this, we do think it's a large investment and our main business, Pilot Flying J, is our largest family investment, but this is our second largest family business investment and we're going to take it very serious, but we also feel very good about it, we really do."

(On if he plans to move to Cleveland and how much time he plans to spend in Cleveland)- "I think you'll find we're pretty transparent and open people. Our main home will be in Knoxville. Dee is leaving as soon as this press conference is over to go look at homes here in Cleveland and we'll split our time between Knoxville and Cleveland. I'm still going to be CEO of Pilot Flying J. It's a big company and I'll spend a pretty good amount of time running that, but we'll take, as I said earlier, whatever time necessary in Cleveland really to do two things, one, to bring a winner back here, but number two, to become a part of the Cleveland community."

(On being a minority owner of the Steelers and what he can take away from that organization and their success)- "Let me say this, even though I understand the rivalry between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, I get it and our main goal is to return that to a real rivalry. I'll say this, the Rooney's are everything you have ever heard and read that they are. They are class people, they do things right. I take no credit for the four years that we were there, but two Super Bowls, won one, playoffs three years and they do things the right way. They have the Steeler way of doing things. I think we will now have the Browns way of doing things. They build through the draft and those are the things that I learned there. I will also say this, I have absolutely no trouble wearing orange and brown now. I took my Steeler watch off yesterday, put my Browns watch on today and we're fired up. Art (Rooney) and I talked yesterday and we'll remain good friends, but the last thing he said is, ‘I'm going to have to learn to hate you on Sundays,' so I think that speaks for itself."

(On if he planned on eventually becoming a majority owner when he bought in with the Steelers and how he will feel when the Browns play the Tennessee Titans)- "Dad played football at the University of Tennessee so we've been around football all of our lives. I think anybody who likes athletics and particularly likes football and has had some success in business thinks, ‘Man, it would be pretty awesome to own a NFL franchise,' so we've actually had that in our mind for several years. As I said, when we got involved in the Steelers, which was a great opportunity to kind of learn and observe and to meet a lot of people around the league, that was the first step in getting us to where we are here today. I will have absolutely no problem against the Tennessee Titans just like I didn't when we were with the Steelers. The governor of Tennessee may feel a little bit differently. He's not part of this transaction, but we'll want to beat them as bad as we'll want to beat anybody else."

(On how important it is to him to be out in front of the media and the community)- "Somebody asked me that when we were having lunch, about being hands on because we run our main business hands on. I looked over at Mike and I said, ‘Mike probably doesn't want us to be hands on,' but I think our style is going to be involved. I think you'll find that we are open and transparent. Having a brother and a very close friend in high roles in politics, rightly or wrongly, we are used to the public scrutiny and being in the eye. I think you'll find us to be pretty available, pretty transparent people and I'll be honest, we're going to be out there selling the Cleveland Browns all the time. When we got off I-90 and saw the water tower here in Berea and it had the Browns helmet on it I thought, ‘Way to go.' That's how you've got to think, right? It's all about the orange and brown, all about the Browns."

(On how he plans on interacting with the fans)- "I want to be honest, remember I said I talked to Randy on July 2 and we agreed to a deal on August 2, so this is our first real day on the job so let me be clear, there's are a lot of things we have not thought about. I was talking to Mike and Wednesday night we have a practice at the stadium and it's for fan appreciation. To me it's important for me to be there, greet people and shake their hands. I don't want to do anything to distract from Pat (Shurmur) and the team because that needs to be the story, not us. Hopefully we're a one day story and then it goes back to about football, but we do plan on being present. I've thought about the first exhibition game, why don't we just sit in the stands rather than sit in the owner's box and see what the facility feels like sitting as a quote ‘regular fan' so we'll be out there and available."

(On Montario Hardesty playing at the University of Tennessee and his memories of him)- "Good player, he was number two. He was a good player, a really good player. He's from North Carolina. The first year or two he did okay, but junior year he had a breakout season and the Browns thought highly of him and picked him in the second round. I know he came off injury last year, but he looks really good and really quick, but I'm also glad to be on the same side as 33 (Trent Richardson)."

(On how active he will be in terms of football decisions)- "I think it will be a learning curve. I mean you've got a guy that won a Super Bowl over there that's going to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that's a legend. I'll be honest, there's a fan part of me too. Last night I was looking forward to dinner to meet Mike, but he's also a guy I've thought a lot of so we're going to ask a lot of questions and learn it first. I'm a believer in collective wisdom and if you have five smart people sitting around the table, it's better than four, but we're going to take some time to get up to speed before we get real involved in any football decisions. It probably comes a little quicker on the business side for us."

(On how he incorporates what he has learned about building a winning franchise)- "I spent a lot of time with Kevin Colbert of the Steelers picking his brain over the four years. When Mike and Tom and everybody got here, of the last 10 first round draft picks, only two were here, am I right? And to be honest, your first round draft pick has to not just make the team, not just start, he's has to be All-Pro. That's reality so the key is those draft pick decisions and the decisions that Mike and Tom make and who we pick. That's the most important decisions you're going to make for the franchise and it looks to me that over the last two years that they've done a really nice job. We had an opportunity to meet Brandon today, to meet Trent, didn't meet the right tackle (Mitchell) Schwartz, but they looked like not only really good players, but really high quality people. I think that's the other thing and we were talking up there and Pat said, ‘We've got good people,' and I think we want high character people because I think the other kind of players get you in trouble, but those draft picks, it's so important, so important."

(On if he has a philosophy about judging people by their merits)- "That's a hard question to answer, I'll be honest. I do think that all of us, the most important decisions we make are going to be the people we surround ourselves with, and those are extremely important decisions. No one bats 1.000, Mike I'm sure you've had a couple of bad draft picks, only a couple (joking), but a couple of bad draft picks. Nobody bats 1.000. You've got to learn from those mistakes, but who you surround yourself with is very, very important."

(On if fans should embrace themselves for a culture shock like changing jerseys or naming rights)- "I would maybe define culture a little different than that. To me, culture is not about the uniforms or the naming rights. Culture is about how you come to work every day and conduct yourselves. My instincts, and here again I've been in the building five hours so I don't at all want to pretend to be an expert, particularly with this kind of guy over here to my side (Mike Holmgren). I think the reality today is, you live in a marketing world and after Randy and I reached an agreement the other day, the first owner that called me was Robert Kraft and he said come up and see me and I'll tell you everything about football and business I know. It's a competitive world and the questions I've been asking today have not just been about how's Brandon (Weeden) looking or how Trent's (Richardson) looking, but how does this practice facility stack up against everyone else's practice facility? Do you have what you need to win here? How's our stadium compare for the fans? I think those are the things that are important to get right. Will we have naming rights? Probably at some time or could we change the uniforms? I don't know, but it is a marketing world we live in, and let's be realistic about that. I don't associate that with culture though. I think they are distinctly different. People may agree or disagree, but that's our philosophy. In our business world, we changed our logo and our design of our stores multiple times over the years, but the basic culture and core beliefs - what we call Pilot Flying J values stay the same and hopefully that helps you."

(On if Joe Banner will be a part of his ownership)- "I'll just refer back to what I said at first, it would be inappropriate and very poor form for us to talk about any current or future employee decisions. We're just not going to go there."

(On what hope he can offer the fans)- "Mike and I were talking and someone said, "What games look easy?" Mike and I both said the same thing, and remember we only met each other last night, there are no easy games in the NFL. We're in a tough division, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati is getting better. All I can tell you is that we're going to come to work every day and these guys are already doing it. We're going to come to work every day with a mission to get better. I think they have things going the right way. I fully understand. My wife said, ‘Man, everyone's so nice to us.' I said, ‘We'll see how long that lasts.' Let's be realistic, it's all about winning. If we win, things are going to get better, but there's no reason why this can't be a winning franchise. Everything's here right? There's no reason. If they don't, I'll accept the blame. It's our fault, we didn't execute like we should. Every other piece is in place here, great fan base, you have the money you need, we just have to execute."

(On if he's ready for the passion that this city has both positive and negative)-  "I'm going to say I am and we know what we're getting into, but I've had several NFL owners tell me you cannot believe the highs and the lows. I will say this, being a limited owner, it's a little different because last year, if that other team was to lose a tough game on the last play, I might be upset Sunday night, but Monday I'm back at my regular job. I have a feeling this will linger a little bit longer, but that's part of it. We're competitive, we look forward to the opportunity and let me say just one thing, and it's that passion you talk about here that we like. I grew up in Knoxville, which is a college football town - both teams wear orange ironically - we have that same passion. I understand that the spirit and mood of the city rises and falls with how the Browns do and it's our job to keep it up more than down."

(On what Randy Lerner's message to him was and if Lerner had four wishes for him)- "Before Randy and I sat down, he had four things that we had to agree to. I told him I would keep them all private, except one which was keep the team in Cleveland, which was never an issue anyway. You all know Randy, he's a perfect gentleman. He's as nice a man as I've ever met and here's exactly what he said, ‘I'll do as much or as little as I can to help you, as you know my style is to stay in the background.' I've got his cell number, his email and he said, ‘If you need anything at all just pick up the phone and call me.' He's a gentleman. The first call I got yesterday after we signed the deal was from Randy Lerner to congratulate us. His mom called us today. They're nice, class people."

(On if he will have time for both of his jobs)- "Have you been talking to Dee (joking)? I think it's going to be a challenge. We're involved on some other boards, and we're going to get off all of those and if you know us very well, we don't have a lot of hobbies beside work so now it's going to be work and football, but it will be a challenge. It's a big company that we run, but these are good, smart, talented people here and we're going to spend a lot of time in Cleveland, a lot of time in Knoxville. Our business is in 43 states, plus Canada, so we're used to traveling and being on the road and it's exciting and its fun, but it will be a challenge though to answer your question."

(On what he knew about the franchise before July 2 and what he has learned since)- "I didn't know a lot. I knew the Browns had struggled over the years, because I've been on the other side of that with that other team. Since July 2, I've picked up the Plain Dealer every day and see what the news is on practice, when did Trent (Richardson) sign, when did Brandon (Weeden) sign and all those kind of things, but I don't pretend to be an expert on the Cleveland Browns, and won't for quite some time. Now, I think it's my job to get there, but Mike's probably thinking, ‘God, I wish this guy would go back to Knoxville,' because I've asked him 7,000 questions, and when he walks away I ask them to Tom (Heckert). I think that's the only way you learn. I think it's a good, young, exciting team that is on the upswing."

(On the role football has played in his life)- "Dad played football at Tennessee so we grew up in an athletic background. He was a great dad, Super Bowl, World Series, I've been to every kind of athletic event, as has my brother, that you can go to. I was raised in that kind of background. I played high school sports, was not good enough to play college sports, but been in that environment all the time. I'm a firm believer in athletics. I have an intern every year, that's a college kid, and the prerequisites are this, number one, they had to play high school sports, because I think that competitive aspect comes through and I think it's important in business. Business is just as competitive as football or whatever. The other thing I'd say is I think football, and this might offend some people, I think it's the best team sport there is because you are relying on the other 10 guys, and if one guy doesn't do his job, the play is not going to work. I just think it's a great team sport. As I said earlier, the NFL is the premier sports league in the world."

(On if he plans on bringing jobs to Cleveland like Dan Gilbert did when he bought the Cavs)- "I'll be honest, we haven't thought about it. I would doubt it. We have 32 truck stops in Ohio and we're going to build four more next year so that's 36. The average one employs 50 people so that's 1,800 employees in the state of Ohio. Would we have any big presence here? No. I just want to keep coming back to it, at the end of the day the most important thing we can do is win at football. We get that, understand it and we're going to do everything we can to make that happen."

(On if it's this is the best deferred payment deal he's ever made)- "Let me just say this, with Randy and I, one of his criteria were that these negotiations be private, I think I need to honor his request and not make any comment on it."

(On how he plans on balancing the changes he will bring to the franchise against blowing it up)- "Here again, I've been in the Cleveland community one day so I don't pretend to be an expert, but I sense there's a strong feeling here that Mike and the team do have things headed in the right direction. I just think we've got to listen, learn and observe. You know in football, you either win or you lose. There's not a question of how did we do. I think over time these guys will be successful."

(On if the negotiations broke down at any point)- "I'm not being a wise guy, but if you've ever negotiated a deal - and we just finished another big one in our business - this one is really no different. I've never seen a negotiation that there weren't times that I thought, this isn't going to work out or we aren't going to be able to get things together. I will say this, Randy - you've all known him longer than I have - he's a gentleman, he's a good business man, he's smart, he's tough and he knew he had something of value, but the negotiations went well. Roger Goodell told me he had never seen an NFL deal done this quickly. If you think about it, we agreed to it in 31 days from the time we first met so that's fast."

(On if he will speak to any alumni to get a feel for the history of the team)- "Mike told me we have a legends day later on in the year. We want to get involved. I'll just go back to what I said several times, there's a lot here. There's a lot to learn and master. I think we want all former Browns - this is a team that's won eight championships over the years - to feel comfortable and feel good about what we're doing here so we'll do everything we can to reach out to them and make them feel comfortable."

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