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Pilot Flying J on Page One: Scandal now an international business story

5:43 PM, Jun 26, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- It's not the kind of cover story Cleveland Browns fans are dreaming about.

Now the Haslam family's success story and the investigation surrounding Pilot Flying J is on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal Wednesday. 

On Browns owner and Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam: "Investigators appear to be pressing for indictments, maybe even his, he acknowledged. He said he hasn't done anything wrong and he is 'very comfortable' with his personal position."

He told WSJ reporters, "I really can't worry about indictments because I have no control. My focus has got to be on fixing the problem..."

Fixing the problem means apologizing and repaying trucking company customers who find they've been shorted rebates. 

He's also suspended sales staff he says didn't act like Pilot Flying J employees should.

At least one of the five Pilot employees to enter a guilty plea says senior management knew what was happening.

Jay Stinnett started cooperating with investigators April 15, the day the company was raided. His plea agreement, unsealed last week, did not list management by name. He's agreed to cooperate with the federal prosecutors.

The FBI affidavit for the initial search warrant says Jimmy Haslam and Pilot President Mark Hazelwood were present at sales meetings that discussed the scheme.

Hazelwood's attorney and Haslam himself tell the WSJ and Channel 3 News that they did nothing wrong.

What does it mean for Browns fans? Haslam confirms to the paper he has no intention of selling the team.

But it reports he thought this year would go differently, even hiring John Compton as Pilot CEO so he could spend more time with the team.

"Mr. Compton said he began work Jan. 1 and right after the Super Bowl, Mr. Haslam told him he wanted his job back," said the story. "'He missed it too much,' Mr. Compton said."

While the article doesn't drop any bombshells, it does show the scope of this investigation reaches far beyond the field at FirstEnergy Stadium, drawing interest from an international business community.

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