A day after Jimmy Haslam insisted he wouldn't need to sell the Cleveland Browns, word is out that the Pilot Flying J truck stop CEO will be selling a minor league baseball team he also owns, the Tennessee Smokies, per the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Pilot has come under federal investigation for fraud and faulty business practices, leading to scandal and speculation that Haslam would need to put the Browns back on the market. But he said there was no worry, and that he'd be holding onto the Browns. It's awfully coincidental that just a day later, he's reported as selling his other sports property. Haslam said that the sale of the Smokies is not related to the Pilot investigation, and that he now needs to spend more time dealing with the Browns.
The Smokies, a Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, are based in Haslam's hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., and don't represent nearly the financial interest the Browns do. Haslam bought the Browns for $1 billion last year, whereas he bought the Smokies for just $7.5 million in 2002.
Pilot, founded in 1958 by Haslam's father, started as a single truck stop and turned into a multi-billion dollar corporation, allowing Haslam to buy the Browns and his brother to fund a successful bid to become governor of Tennessee. But allegations that they were defrauding customers by skimming money off rebates could spell serious trouble, although Haslam repeats that it won't affect football.