Several team officials are reportedly saying they believe it may be extremely difficult for Jimmy Haslam III to keep his ownership of the Cleveland Browns. CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman reports that, because Haslam may be “ensnared by a myriad of lawsuits and legal actions,” Haslam could experience a significant drain to his finances, preventing him from keeping the team he purchased less than 12 months ago.
Haslam, and his family company Pilot Flying J, is the target of several lawsuits which stem from alleged practices of fraud and deceit. The FBI has been probing Haslam’s truck-stop company and has alleged massive impropriety based on targeted cost-plussing of select clients. A 120-page affidavit recently stated that Pilot Flying J sales employees withheld fuel price rebates and discounts in an attempt to boost company profitability as well as personal sales commissions. If Haslam loses the suits or is forced to settle for large sums, the league is concerned that he will not be fit to own an NFL franchise.
“This is more worrisome than people know,” said one team official who has familiarized himself with Haslam’s situation. In turn, sources tell Freeman that it may only be a matter of time before Haslam is forced to sell the Browns.
Haslam continues to claim his (and his company’s) innocence with regard to the allegations. He recently apologized to the city of Cleveland, stating that he is very embarrassed by the recent fallout. “We feel badly about it, and we’re very comfortable we’ll work through this situation,” he said.
[Related: Where is the line drawn with character concerns?]