President & CEO Policy to step down wire reports

CLEVELAND (April 7, 2004) -- Carmen Policy has decided to let someone else run the Cleveland Browns.

Policy will step down after five years as the club's president and chief executive officer on May 1 but will stay on as a consultant through the 2004 NFL season.

John Collins, currently the NFL's senior vice president of marketing and sales, will replace Policy as the Browns' top executive.

"That means that I will have a business card, I will have a relationship with the Browns," Policy said at a news conference to announce the abrupt change. "That means I will get paid and that means I really won't have to work that hard."

Policy was hand-picked by late Browns owner Al Lerner when Cleveland returned to the league as an expansion franchise in 1999 following a three-year absence.

Policy will now serve as an executive adviser this year while helping owner Randy Lerner take a larger role in running the team.

After helping build the San Francisco 49ers into a power in the 1980s and '90s, Policy has been unable to turn Browns into consistent winners.

His five-year tenure in Cleveland has been marked by losing records and some turmoil. The Browns are just 26-53 since returning to the NFL in 1999, including a playoff loss to Pittsburgh in 2001.

Policy fired coach Chris Palmer following a 3-13 season in 2000, replacing him with Butch Davis. Policy was then unable to stop Dwight Clark, his close friend who had followed him from San Francisco, from resigning in 2002 as the club's director of football operations following a power struggle with Davis.

Al Lerner's reluctance to step into the public spotlight thrust Policy into the role of team spokesman -- something the lawyer from Youngstown gladly accepted.

But that role led to criticism.

Randy Lerner took ownership of the franchise after his father's death in 2002. With a background in investment banking, Randy Lerner had no previous pro football experience and leaned on Policy heavily to learn the business.

At the younger Lerner's request, Policy signed a contract extension last season through 2008. The deal was structured so Policy could slowly turn over more responsibility to Lerner, who has maintained a low-profile since taking over the club.

Lerner also bought back Policy's 10 percent ownership share last year, paving the way for his departure.

Policy purchased 10 acres of land in California's Napa Valley where he plans to build a home and a winery that will have his private label. Policy has said he longs to return to the Bay area.

Collins, 42, joined the NFL in 1989 and served in a variety of roles, helping the league secure more than $1.9 billion in sponsorship rights fees from major companies. His current responsibilities include handling the league's corporate sponsorship, advertising sales and marketing.

"John is a very solid businessman," said Roger Goodell, NFL vice president and chief operating officer. "He has been an outstanding performer for the league. He's a terrific negotiator and he understands how to drive and direct value, and he's very good with people."