KODAK, Tenn. (AP) — Cleveland Browns owner and Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam are selling the Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team.
Pilot Flying J is under a federal investigation into alleged rebate fraud. Lauren Christ, a spokeswoman for Pilot Flying J, said the sale of the Smokies wouldn't affect Haslam's ownership of the Browns and was unrelated to the investigation.
Randy Boyd, the CEO of Knoxville-based Radio Systems Corporation and a top education adviser to Gov. Haslam, is buying the Chicago Cubs' Double-A Southern League affiliate, the team announced Friday.
"It does have something to do with Cleveland in that we're obviously going to be spending more time there," Jimmy Haslam told the Knoxville News-Sentinel, which first reported the sale. "But I think the reality is the entire partnership group had owned the team for 12 years and felt like it was time for new ownership."
The deal still awaits final approval from Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball. Terms of the sale weren't announced.
The Haslams had served as principal owners of the Smokies. One of the ownership partners has been Gary Wade, chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The team release announcing the sale said the deal had been discussed since January and that an agreement was reached in March, before FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents raided the Pilot Flying J headquarters on April 15.
"My partners and I have been honored to own the Smokies for the past 10 years and didn't want to let the opportunity to sell to a local owner pass by," Jimmy Haslam said in the release. "Randy is a great community leader, a quality person and a first-class businessman. I know he will be an excellent owner."
Five members of the Pilot sales team have pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges and are cooperating with prosecutors. Jimmy Haslam has said he was unaware of an alleged conspiracy to defraud trucking company customers until he read the FBI affidavit.