Alfred "Al" Lerner
Lerner al
Al Lerner, who was a minority owner of the original Browns' franchise that moved to Baltimore with Art Modell, won the bidding war to resume the franchise as majority owner of the expansion Browns in 1999.
Cleveland Browns
Alfred Lerner on May 8, 1933
in New York City, New York, U.S.
October 2, 2002(2002-10-02) (aged 69)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. (brain cancer)
Businessman, CEO MBNA Securities, Sports Entrepreneur, Former owner, Cleveland Browns, 1998-2002, his death
Alma Mater(s):
Brooklyn Tech High School
Columbia University
Family and Personal information
Norma Wolkoff, 1955-2002, his death
Randy (Browns' owner from 2002-2012), Nancy

Alfred "Al" Lerner (May 8, 1933—October 23, 2002) was an American businessman and philanthropist. He was best known as the Chairman of The Board of credit card giant MBNA and the owner of the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League. He was also a past president of the Board of Trustees of the famed Cleveland Clinc as well as a major benefactor.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Lerner was the only son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. His parents owned a small candy store and sandwich shop in Queens, New York. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School, and then Columbia College, the liberal arts college at Columbia University, graduating in 1955.[1] He served as a pilot in the US Marines from 1955 to 1957, serving in Quantico, Virginia and Pensacola, Florida.


After leaving the Marines, Lerner began selling furniture, earning $75 a week.[1] He would get into real estate and later banking.

In 1990, he became a major shareholder in MNC Financial, a small Baltimore, Maryland based bank. Struggling with real estate loans in the midst of the savings and loan crisis, MNC soon needed leadership and Lerner stepped in as its new CEO. He tried unsuccessfully to sell the bank's most successful unit, credit card issuer MBNA, to raise cash. In 1991, he took MBNA public, investing $100 million of his own money to ensure the success of the initial sale of stock. Amid some controversy, MBNA would still blossom into the second largest credit card issuer.

He was also the chairman of Town and Country Trust, which owns and operates more than 15,000 apartment units in the mid-Atlantic region.

Cleveland BrownsEdit

Lerner and his family were awarded majority interest in the expansion Cleveland Browns of the National Football League, after purchasing the rights to resume the team in 1998 after the move of the original franchse, which would become the Ravens, by majority owner Art Modell to Baltimore, in 1996. He paid $530 million, a record for a sports franchise at the time, outdistancing the next closest bid by $30 million.[2] The runner-up bid was from Cablevision Systems chairman and present New York Knicks team owner Charles Dolan and his brother and future Cleveland Indians owner Larry Dolan.

Prior to that, Lerner held a 5% stake in the old Cleveland Browns franchise.[3] In 1995, he assisted his friend at the time Art Modell, former owner of the Browns, in moving Modell's NFL franchise rights from Cleveland to Baltimore. Lerner introduced Modell to Baltimore financiers of the deal, and he sat behind on the podium at the press conference Modell announcing the team's move. However, many Browns fans were angered after word leaked that Modell’s deal to move the Browns to Baltimore was signed on Lerner’s private jet.[4] The two stopped talking shortly thereafter. In 1997, Modell paid $32 million to buy out Lerner's stake in the Baltimore Ravens, which had grown to 9%.[3]

After his death, his wife and son Randy took over the Browns franchise. Lerner's initials are stitched on the shoulders of the Browns' jerseys.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1955, Lerner married his wife Norma.[5] They were married for 47 years and had two children, business executive Randy Lerner, and Nancy.

He was extremely private and shunned the limelight.[6]

He was proud of being a U.S. Marine and flew a flag of the United States Marine Corps atop the stadium during the entire time he owned the Browns. Additionally, he flew the Cleveland Browns football team flag at all MBNA America corporate sites along with the American flag and State flags.

Cleveland native and fellow marine Drew Carey paid tribute to Lerner at the end of a season 8 episode of The Drew Carey Show called "The Dawn Patrol."

Lerner was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2001 and that May underwent surgery, spending most of his last year in and out of hospitals. He died on October 2, 2002.


Lerner gave generously to numerous hospitals and universities.[6] His favorite charities were the Cleveland Clinic and his alma mater Columbia University, both of which received multiple large gifts.

Lerner donated approximately twenty-five million dollars toward the construction of a new Columbia University student center in 1999, which was named Alfred Lerner Hall in his honor. In 2007, Columbia announced it would honor Lerner's military service in the United States Marine Corps with a plaque to be placed in Lerner Hall.

The College of Business and Economics is named after him at the University of Delaware.

He was President of the Cleveland Clinic|Cleveland Clinic Foundation and donated over $100 million to the hospital system.

Lerner's estate also donated $10 million toward the construction of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Goldstein, Richard Alfred Lerner, 69, Banker; Revived Cleveland Browns New York Times (accessed April 10, 2010)
  2. Sandomir, Richard PRO FOOTBALL; Lerner Wins Browns for $530 Million New York Times (accessed April 10, 2010)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kahn, Jeremy Al Lerner Rectifies A Mistake on the Lake FORTUNE Magazine, October 25, 1999 (accessed April 10, 2010)
  5. Norma Lerner bio Cleveland Clinic Website (accessed April 10, 2010)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Al Lerner, 69; Ohio Businessman Owned Cleveland Browns Los Angeles Times (accessed April 10, 2010)

External linksEdit

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