Overdrive Extra

Randy Grider

Pilot Flying J CEO buys NFL team in rival’s backyard

| August 03, 2012

When it was first reported that Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam III was buying the Cleveland Browns, some NFL fans and sports writers made a small issue about his ties to Pittsburgh Steelers. After all, the Browns and Steelers are bitter enemies.

Haslam is expected to be officially announced as the new majority owner today, Aug. 3, as part of a $1 billion-plus deal.

Divesting the Steelers stock Haslam owned (reportedly 10-16 percent), along with a promise that he won’t move the Browns out of Cleveland, should quickly calm any apprehension about perceived rivalry conflicts.

But this story has another interesting rivalry twist that is more compelling for the trucking industry. Haslam’s purchase of the Browns puts him in the spotlight in the same city where one of his Tennessee-based company’s biggest competitors – TravelCenters of America – is headquartered.

In football parlance, this would be referred to as an “end run.” Maybe that should be ESPN’s “Play of the Day.”

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