Shareholders vs. Stakeholders: Browns Fans Know Your Role

Picture: browns fan by dennis, on Flickr

You’re a fan of the Cleveland Browns, cool story. You’ve been a supporter for many decades, congratulations. Your family has had season tickets since Otto Graham, here’s your cookie. Know what you are? A stakeholder. You are customers of the Browns and are interested in how they perform.

Randy Lerner inherited the team from his father and has sold, to this point, 70 percent of the team to Jimmy Haslam. Know what they are? Shareholders. They own the business and take all the risk. Your only risk that you hope to get in and out of Browns Stadium without one of your drunk friends falling from the upper level to the lower level.

Yeah, what I said was harsh, but true. It is no different than the companies you own through your retirement account. Except in those, you have a voting interest in the outcome of those companies.

Yes, you buy tickets, merchandise, and beer to support the Browns. Those purchases don’t give you rights to tell ownership or management how to run their business.

Example: You own a pizza shop, and I come in and ask for a pizza and it’s terrible. The next day I come back and give you a list of things you can do to make your pizza better.

The reaction that you have as the owner, or shareholder, of that pizza shop is probably the same reaction that Haslam and Banner have when you tell them who to draft or hire as their next coach.

This logic applies to fans of all teams, not just Browns. I’ll use Browns fans because they are among the most delusional fans in any sport, anywhere. Yes, you even have Ohio State and Alabama fans beat.

What we know about Jimmy Haslam: he knows just as much about running a football team as you do, which is zero. Something else we know: he hired someone he thinks can run his organization better than Haslam could himself. Yeah, that’s totally different than the previous owner, who is still a partial owner.

The last owner wrongly considered the fans “shareholders” and himself a “stakeholder.” Through six “regime” changes, 13 seasons, and what feels like a million quarterbacks the only thing ownership got right was their ability to keep you buying tickets year after year.

I have a feeling Haslam knows he’s THE shareholder and that fans are stakeholders.

I know this next part will fall on deaf ears, but I’ll type it out on my fancy keyboard anyway. Sit back, enjoy the game, and don’t be scared.

Haslam turned the day to day organization garbage to Banner in hopes that he will run it like a real business. Haslam put all of his trust in Banner to run the Browns like a real business. How do I know? He gave Banner the title of CEO; then Banner hired a President, for the business side, and soon he’ll hire people to manage the football side of the operation.

No, it won’t be in the traditional sense that we have all come to know and hate, but the head coach will control the roster while the general manager and director of player personnel will support the head coach. At this point it appears all three will report to Banner.

Sure, you don’t like it because it isn’t something you’re used to.


There are essentially two shareholders and they’re OK with the configuration, and as a person who works in a very large corporation and is also a shareholder, I’m OK with it. I cannot run the behemoth that is my company, but when the board of directors (shareholders) voted in a new CEO a few years ago I went with it. Why? Because they know more about running a business than I do.

The group that I work for has a pseudo CEO, he’s my boss. As CEO, he has several people who report to him and we are responsible for the inner workings of this 25,000 employee group inside of a company of nearly 600,000. Do I tell my boss how to do his job? Of course not.

When our clients (stakeholders), who pay us billions of dollars call and complain, do I let them tell me how to run this group? Of course not.

See how this works?

Let’s go back to the pizza shop and reverse roles, if you continue to eat my bad pizza, at the end of the day, who is to blame? It certainly isn’t me. You’re the one that continues to buy crappy pizza and continues to complain about it.

Please, express frustration at losses and excitement at victories, but if you, as a stakeholder, don’t like the product the shareholders or their company is producing feel free to take your business elsewhere.

When I find a crappy pizza place I don’t go back. Certainly as a stakeholder I can find better pizza somewhere else, right?

If Haslam and Banner keep giving you crappy pizza, why not eat pizza somewhere else? I have, and so should you.

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