KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On the banks of the Tennessee River is the city of Knoxville, home of the billionaire businessman who recently purchased the majority interest of the Cleveland Browns football franchise.
"You will have a winner in Jimmy Haslam," said a man eating his breakfast at a popular restaurant in the heart of Knoxville, a city of about 180,000 people. It was no surprise to him that Haslam was able to buy the Browns, even at such a hefty price.
"He and his whole family have added a whole lot to this community," said the man in between bites on his toast and sips of his coffee. "Yes, he will be good for Cleveland," he offered without hesitation.
Throughout Knoxville, the largest city in the eastern part of Tennessee, that thought has been predominant. Many of the people who know Haslam well predict he will be a boon not only for the Cleveland Browns, but also, for all of northeast Ohio. His tradition has been to be greatly involved where he lives and works.
At the University of Tennessee, with its student population of 27,000, the Haslam name is etched on buildings across the campus. The business building is named after Jimmy Haslam III and his father, Jimmy Haslam II. His dad, affectionately called "Big Jim" on the campus, has been an integral part of the university scene. He graduated from UT in 1952.
Jimmy Haslam III picked up his father's philosophy of giving. Haslam Field is as practice facility named at Haslam III and the music building, under construction, is named after the father and stepmother of Haslam III.
The family made its money with its nationwide Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops and with the Pilot gasoline stations and convenience stores. UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek sings the praises of the entire Haslam family because of the tens of millions of dollars they have donated throughout the years.
"In Cleveland, I'm sure he will do the same thing," predicted Cheek. "When he meets with the mayor of the governor or whoever he meets with in Ohio, I'm sure he's very curious about why this is happening that way; what are the issues; what are the possible solutions to that; and how might help solve a problem," added Cheek.
Certainly, Haslam has inroads into the political system. His younger brother, Bill Haslam is the Republican governor of Tennessee, who also sings the praises of his older sibling. The Haslam family is well known throughout the region. Those who know Jimmy predict he will be good for Cleveland -- not just the football team, but the entire northeast Ohio.
Interestingly, the colors of the University of Tennessee are orange and white. When the Tennessee Volunteers run on the University football field in their orange jerseys, there is a sea of orange throughout the huge stadium. The orange on the campus is much the same as the orange in Cleveland when the orange and brown-clad Cleveland Browns play.
Haslam won't have to change his orange ties when he leaves Saturday Tennessee football games and flies to Cleveland for Sunday Browns games.
"Oh, Jimmy bleeds orange," laughed the University chancellor, predicting Cleveland will see many successes both on and off the football field because of the new owner from Knoxville. Already, Haslam and his wife, Dee, have bought a home in the Cleveland suburb of Bratenahl. However, they will also live in their home in Knoxville.