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With potential sale in works, what's next for Browns?

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Posted July 29, 2012 @ 5:54 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Randy Lerner’s time as the Browns’ majority owner looks to be coming to an end. Now, attention turns to the potential ripple effect.

The future of team president Mike Holmgren, who is in the third year of a five-year contract, was a source of speculation even before news of the potential sale, and it's something to keep an eye on, the way we hear it. 

“(That) will be answered probably down the road,” Holmgren, 64, said of his future, “and you control the things you can control and do the best you can.

“I think we’ve done a lot of great things here in getting to this point, but we will see.”

Lerner confirmed July 27 that he was negotiating to sell at least a partial stake in the club to Jimmy Haslam III, the president and CEO of Pilot Flying-J Travel Centers, the nation's largest retail operator of travel centers and truck stops. Haslam bought a piece of the Steelers in late 2008. 

“We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private,” Lerner said when confirming sale talks. “Given that any transaction would require (NFL) 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.”

Holmgren told reporters that Lerner was “giving up a controlling interest in the team.”

In 2002, Lerner became the Browns’ primary owner after the passing of his father, Al, who was awarded Cleveland’s expansion franchise four years earlier. (Al Lerner also was a part-owner of the Browns when the club moved to Baltimore in 1996.) Randy Lerner has not been reluctant to spend money — Holmgren received a knockout offer to run the organization in 2010 — and he has not hesitated to make changes, but a winning blueprint has eluded his Browns.  

The question now is whether a change in ownership would lead to another round of organizational upheaval. The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported July 28 that former Eagles president Joe Banner will be an “integral part” of the new ownership team. Banner is familiar with head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert, both of whom worked for the Eagles during Banner’s time as an executive.

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