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Browns sold to Haslam group

The controlling interest of the Cleveland Browns has been sold to Jimmy Haslam.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a group led by Haslam has purchased 70 percent of the franchise from Randy Lerner for a price said to be in excess of $1 billion.

"This is a very exciting time for my family and me," said Haslam in a statement released on Thursday. "To own such a storied franchise as the Cleveland Browns, with its rich tradition and history, is a dream come true. We are committed to keeping the team in Cleveland and seeing it get back to the elite of the NFL - something all Browns fans want and deserve. We plan to bring relentless dedication and hard work to every aspect of this organization, and we look forward to getting to know this team and community as quickly as possible. Our family is committed to becoming an integral part of the Cleveland community. We also want to thank Randy Lerner for his friendship, counsel and support during this process."

Lerner, whose father Al was awarded the franchise in 1999 when the Browns returned to the NFL as an expansion club, will still own a 30 percent stake.

The deal still needs approval from the other NFL owners.

For the last 16 years, Haslam, 58, has been the CEO of Pilot Flying J Corporation, the nation's largest retail operator of travel centers and truck stops.

The Lerners helped bring football back to northeast Ohio after the original Browns were moved by Art Modell to Baltimore following the 1995 campaign. The club's name and history, however, remained with the city and were restored when the Browns again began play in 1999.

"I feel a deep debt of gratitude to the loyal and passionate fan base, as well as the people I've met and worked with over the years," Lerner said in a statement. "It has been a privilege to be involved with the Cleveland Browns and my only hope is that the Haslam family has the best of luck and that the Browns are restored to their rightful place among NFL Champions."