CLEVELAND -- Browns fans have seen the headlines: Pilot Flying J $4 billion in debt. But only Channel 3 News is putting that number in perspective.
While it's hard to argue $4 billion isn't a big number, it may not be toomuch debt for Jimmy Haslam'sPilot Flying J.
"It may not be that significant a number," saidKevin Myeroff, a localfinancial analyst.
Myeroffsays without seeing Pilot Flying J's balance sheet, it's hard to say what kind of shape Jimmy Haslam's family company is in.
"Lots of companies have debt for different reasons. They want to use other people's money. Money is very cheap right now, they'd rather save cash on hand for acquisitions or things they haven't planned for," he said.
"Four billion is only relative. GE has $300 billion plus dollars of debt, but their revenue is significantly higher."
The Wall Street Journal reported Pilot's debt nearly doubled to $4 billion since 2010, part of the bonds were paid to the owners, maybe even used to buy the Cleveland Browns.
"It's a common way in privately held companies of distributing money," said Myeroff.
Like other entrepreneurs, Jimmy Haslam may be worth nearly $2 billion on paper, but it's not held as cash in the bank. Forbes says the company brings in nearly $29 billion in revenue, but their profits and other metrics aren't released.
While the company grew, it's risk racketed up. Standard and Poors downgraded the company's credit rating to BB. But Myeroff said it's hard to read too much into that change.
Haslam told the WSJ, Pilot could pay its debt down quickly.
"Nobody knows how the Browns and the company might be tied together. That's a question yet to be answered," he said.
One thing that will add cash to Haslam's balance sheet, the sale of Tennessee Smokies, a deal dating back to before the raid.
Myeroff says Browns fans don't need to be worried that the team would be used to pay off debts...yet.
"There are so many different scenarios," he said. "Is it possible? Sureit's possible. Do I think it's realistic? God, I sure hope not."
"Let's look forward to the Browns season coming up. Let's let Jimmy Haslam and his group take care of their own problems, and let's not start rumors or create further issues," he said.
Tom Ingram, a spokesperson for the company, said, "Pilot Flying J's business and financial position are very strong. As we said to the WSJ, there are inaccuracies in the ratings numbers, but as a private company we prefer not to elaborate."