By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The headquarters of Pilot Flying J, the company run by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and founded by his father, was locked down by FBI and IRS agents while excecuting a search warrant on Monday.
According to media reports, the lockdown was the result of an ongoing investigation. Officials have declined to comment on what investigators were looking for.
Media were barred from entering the company’s campus in Knoxville, TN. Some employees were sent home.
The company, which has made the Haslam family billionaires, is the largest operator of travel centers and truck stops in North America. It is among the most lucrative private companies in the United States and reported $18 billion in annual sales in 2011.
In a statement emailed to Knoxville media, Haslam said, “The FBI secured our headquarters today and informed us they are investigating Pilot Flying J. We will cooperate appropriately with any and all external investigations and conduct our own. I believe and trust there has been no wrongdoing. The integrity of our company always has been job number one.”
Haslam stepped down as company CEO after buying the Browns for $1.05 billion in August. Haslam personally recruited John Compton, a family friend, native of Tennessee and former president of PepsiCo., to take over as CEO. That transfer was announced on Sept. 11.
But just five months later, Haslam reversed himself and announced he would return as CEO of Pilot Flying J, which he termed his “first love.” Compton was reassigned as strategic advisor for Pilot, the Browns and the Haslam family.
A spokesman with the NFL said the league was aware of the investigation but had no comment. The Browns said they would have no comment.
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