Cleveland Browns could be sold to Pittsburgh Steelers fan

What will Jim Brown think? The prospective new owner of the Cleveland Browns is a self-described "1,000 percent" Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam, who has begun talks with Browns owner Randy Lerner about taking a controlling interest in the team, is president and CEO of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. He is also the older brother of Tennessee's Gov. Bill Haslam.

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Haslam has been a minority investor in the Pittsburgh Steelers and in a 2010 profile told the team's Web site that he had been a Dallas Cowboys and then an Indianapolis Colts fan. But with the Pittsburgh investment, Haslam said he had become "1,000 percent a Steelers fan." The Steelers, of course, are the Browns' chief AFC North rival.

The Haslam brothers are supporters of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where their father Jim Haslam played tackle on the 1951 national championship football team under Gen. Robert R. Neyland, who is credited with building the school into a football powerhouse.

The elder Haslam founded the Pilot Corp. in 1958 with a single gas station in Gate City, Va.

He credits sons Bill and Jimmy with expanding the chain from mostly gas stations and convenience stores to a "travel center" concept of truck stops featuring branded fast food service.

Jim Haslam was a longtime member of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and in 2006 donated $32.5 million to the school, the largest gift ever at the time.

Lauren Christ, spokeswoman for Pilot Flying J, confirmed Jimmy Haslam's interest in the Browns. She said Haslam would have no further comment on the Browns statement and referred all questions to the team.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league is aware of the discussions.

Despite Haslam's affection for the Steelers, the primary focus of his talks with Lerner have been keeping the team in Cleveland, club president Mike Holmgren said on Friday.

"The Cleveland Browns are not going anywhere," Holmgren said.

The Browns have been owned by the Lerner family since 1999, when the franchise was reborn after the original club moved to Baltimore.

Randy Lerner, 50, who also owns the Aston Villa soccer club in England, inherited the Browns in 2002 following the death of his father, Al.

Some fans have been unhappy with Randy Lerner, criticizing him as the disengaged owner of a club that has made the playoffs just once since it was recreated.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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