Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jimmy Haslam's Problems May Become Cleveland's Problems

       Some time back, I wrote a blog which was sharply critical of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam for reneging on his promise to move to Cleveland to be the owner of the Cleveland Browns.  After all, the NFL values local ownership, so for that reason almost all owners actually live in the towns in which the teams play. 

       Except for the Browns.  Haslam told everyone he was retiring from being the CEO of Flying J so that he could move to Cleveland and enjoy being the owner of the Browns.  John Compton was hired to be the new CEO.  However, a few months into his new job, he decided to "unretire" and re-assumed the duties of CEO at Flying J, and that he would continue to live in Knoxville Tennessee. 

     John Compton graciously stepped down and allowed Haslam to re-assume the title of CEO.  The obvious conclusion is that this is what they planned all along.  The move to Bratenahl was just a fiction.  

 So that is how we got an owner who is a  Steelers fan living in Tennessee.

   I further took the next step and note that the Browns will certainly be targeted by the Los Angeles politicians, who have been promised an NFL team in the next few years.  Los Angeles offers some "lucky" owner the chance to make a billion dollars by doubling the franchise value. In the meantime, the Browns have Alec Scheiner as their president.  Scheiner may be the top expert in the world at mega-stadium design, having been Jerry Jones' guy for the magnificent new stadium in Arlington.  Why, exactly, do the Browns need a mega-stadium builder as their President?  Do you think Cleveland's population is going to triple in the next ten years?  Or would Scheiner be the best guy in the world to oversee stadium construction in Los Angeles?

       Many in Browns Nation believe that this is impossible because the City of Cleveland has a very strong lease with the team, which requires the team to not only pay rent but play its games in Cleveland stadium.  This view is completely naive, however.  Lawyers will certainly figure something out if the team defaults on its lease.  My guess is that the NFL will have to promise to relocate ANOTHER team in Cleveland by 2020, and the taxpayers will have to pay for a domed stadium.  

    Browns Nation also tends to believe that the team that moves to LA will be the team with the weakest fan base.  That is ridiculous.  Is that the reason why the old Browns moved to Baltimore?  Did Al Davis move the Raiders to LA and then back to Oakland because of a weak fan base?    
    Make no mistake.  Some team will be moved.  It's not a question of "if" but rather which team will go.   The team that moves will be the one with an owner that wants to make a billion dollars, by moving into the number two media market in the US.    

     In fact, it's happened before.   In 1945, the NFL Champion Cleveland Rams became dissatisfied with their stadium lease (being upstaged by the hotshot coach Paul Brown and the upstart Cleveland Browns  in the new  All America Conference), so the team packed up and moved to Los Angeles, to become the Los Angeles Rams.  Later the LA Rams would move to St Louis showing that history does repeat itself.
   If you want to look at baseball, the Brooklyn Dodgers were also world champions when they moved to Los Angeles (accompanied by the New York Giants who moved to San Francisco). 

      Hence, I think there are very few teams that are not being courted by the City of Los Angeles.  Probably teams like the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants are so valuable that they would not gain value by moving.  But probably two-thirds of the NFL is susceptible to the sales pitch, which probably goes something like this:  "You have a stadium deal?  We have a better one.  We have more fans, and more rich fans.  We have a better TV market, better radio market, better internet, better everything.  We have more fans who will buy more team jerseys, more souvenirs, more everything.  Mr. Owner, we will increase the value of your investment by a billion dollars!!

     Now, one of the defenses against that is local ownership.  So for that reason, it was comforting to know that the Haslam family had bought a mansion in Bratentahl. His family is rightfully known for tremendous community service, and the community looked forward to embracing themBut now, a few months after the sale of the team was approved,  it is clear that Mr. Haslam will be a non-resident owner.  

Haslam, has promised to keep the team in Cleveland.  But he has no ties to the City of Cleveland, and is in fact a former minority owner of the Steelers, calling himself a 

"1000% Steelers fan."  How secure does that make you feel?

No, this is just a very bad situation.  We have a smiling, gregarious owner now, instead of the quiet Lerner family.  Browns fans seem to love the guy and completely trust him to look after the bests interests of Cleveland fans.   But the fact is that we were deceived into believing that he was going to become a Clevelander, and now there are further challenges to his reputation because of the Flying J scandal involving fraudulent rebates.     






No comments:

Post a Comment