Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner is in negotiations to sell at least part of his team to Jimmy Haslam, a minority owner in the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to a statement released by Lerner.
“In connection with current rumors and press inquiries, I can report that I’ve been approached by Mr. Jimmy Haslam, who is interested in making an investment in the Cleveland Browns,” Lerner wrote. “We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private.
"Given that any transaction would require League approval, 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. We will share further details or make an announcement if it becomes necessary.”
Lerner's use of "investment" has raised questions about whether he is selling the entire team or just a minority stake in the club. So far, media members have reported that the discussions are about selling the team itself.
There have been rumors over the past two months that the Browns were for sale. A spokesman for the team had denied those rumors in June.
Earlier Friday morning, ESPN 850 in Cleveland reported that while there wasn't yet a deal in place, there was "smoke and fire" surrounding a potential purchase of the Browns.
Lerner has run the team since October 2002, when he inherited the franchise from his late father Al Lerner. Haslam is the CEO of Pilot Corporation, which is best known for its Pilot Flying J travel centers. ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio reported Friday that Haslam has been a Steelers' minority owner since 2008.