The one thing we know about billionaires who own sports teams, they got rich in other businesses before, by being very good business people. The ones who run successful sports franchises have one more quality. They are tremendous fans of the sport they purchased.
There was never a doubt, that former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans owner, Bud Adams was the latter. Some of the business decisions Bud made at times were questionable, but his commitment to success on the field was never a doubt.
We have seen the signs in last year, and a half that maybe President and CEO, Tommy Smith, and the Adams family might not be as keen on the ownership of an NFL franchise, as they wanted us fans to believe.
Many, around the heart and soul of the Tennessee Titans have talked about a purchase of this franchise, by a committed concern, may be the quickest way to bringing winning football back to Music City. And I agree with them.
The first shoe to drop, was the announcement on Friday, that Tommy Smith was stepping down as President and CEO of the orginization, and they would be moving Steve Underwood into the position, on an interim basis while they look for a permanent solution.
But during his tenure, Underwood will be resident in Nashville, and give the ownership local visibility. Something they sorely need. Ownership needs to have a local presence, and be available when things aren’t working out as planned, and not be getting on jets, and flying back to Houston, to avoid fan displeasure.
With the NFL Owners Meetings getting underway in Scottsdale on Monday, it didn’t take long for the rumors to surface, that the Tennessee Titans were for sale. The news that Tommy Smith had stepped down from his position of power was good, the news about a sale, could even be better.
The front-runners to buy the Titans, are Cleveland Browns owner, Jimmy Haslem, Fred Smith, from FedEx, and Pittsburg billionaire, Dave Tepper. Tepper currently owns 5% of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jason LaConfora, from CBS sports drew some ire from people around the Cleveland Browns organization, when he reported that Haslem was interested in a franchise swap, where he would end up with the Tennessee Titans.
Some sources are saying that Fred Smith was the front-runner if a deal is to be made, but sources close to Smith say, that the 70 year-old billionaire is happy with his share of the Washington Redskins, and may be too old to take on this type of commitment.
In an article on cleveland.com, written by Mary Kay Cabot, where she reviews LaConfora’s story:
"Haslam, who’s attending the annual meeting, was also a minority owner of the Steelers before purchasing the Browns. He obviously has strong and enduring ties to Tennessee. A native of Knoxville, Haslam’s billion-dollar Pilot Flying J corporation is headquartered there, and his brother Bill Haslam is the governor of Tennessee. Haslam graduated from Tennessee and is a huge supporter of the school.Franchise-swapping is not without precedent. In 1972, Robert Irsay purchased the Los Angeles Rams and traded them for the Baltimore Colts."
In fact, there was a report last December, that had Haslem teaming up with Denver Broncos quarterback, Payton Manning as part a potential ownership group for the team. Haslem seemed to become impatient, and purchased the Browns instead.
This is an interesting story that is rippling through the owners meetings, that as Titans fans, we need to keep an eye on. I’m not impressed with Haslem’s running of the Browns, since taking over, and wonder what kind of damage he could do to a franchise, already hemorrhaging.
Cabot’s article in Cleveland points out that per, LaConfora’s report, Tepper may be the best option, and fit, for owning the Tennessee Titans.
"LaCanfora reported that Tepper, who’s worth an estimated $10 billion, is viewed by some league insiders as the frontrunner to purchase the Titans. Currently, Tepper owns 5 percent of the Steelers."
We all remember what happened to Cleveland during the Art Model days, and the move to Baltimore, so I can understand why the Browns would want to put down any rumors of a franchise swap. Their existence is fragile at best.
I’m not sure what is going to happen, but with Tommy Smith stepping down, that tells me something is going to happen, and probably soon. What ever it is, it should bring some excitement to a football team that has become totally irrelevant around the NFL.
Maybe for fans sake, it can translate to some excitement at LP Field on Sunday afternoons, this fall.