David Tepper and the Carolina Panthers announced an agreement in principle is in place to transition ownership from franchise founder Jerry Richardson pending NFL approval.
Tepper will reportedly pay between $2.2 billion and $2.3 billion for the Panthers, an expansion franchise in 1995. Other bidders conceded Tuesday to Tepper’s final bid, which is well above the NFL-record $1.4 billion sale of the Buffalo Bills in 2014.
“I am thrilled to have been selected to be the next owner of the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said in a joint statement distributed by the Panthers on Wednesday morning. “I have learned a great deal about the community and the team over the past several months and look forward to becoming part of the Carolinas. I want to thank Jerry Richardson and the Panthers’ partners for all they have done to establish and develop the NFL in the Carolinas. It has been a remarkable 25-year journey and I promise to build upon the Panthers’ success on the field and in the community.”
The agreement comes five months after Richardson announced he would place the franchise on the market amidst allegations of sexual harassment and racial intolerance in the workplace.
A final $2.2 billion price tag is equal to the amount paid by Tilman Fertitta to purchase the NBA’s Houston Rockets.
Tepper, 60, is a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He follows in the footsteps of previous Steelers’ minority owner Jimmy Haslam, who bought the Cleveland Browns. Tepper founded the hedge-fund giant Appaloosa Management and according to Forbes, Tepper’s net worth as of March was $11 billion.
One of the immediate topics of interest in Charlotte is whether Tepper will invest in a stadium renovation or build a new home for the Panthers. The NFL has skirted discussion of relocation other than to suggest the league prefers the stability of teams staying in their current market. NFL Network reported Tuesday that Tepper’s goal is stability from the top down, including the stadium, general manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera. Both are signed, as is quarterback Cam Newton, through the 2020 season.
“We think it’s very important that franchises, particularly ones that have achieved the success of the Panthers, stay in the market where they’re playing,” NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart said in February.
Richardson, 81, told fans in January he would seek an ownership bid that kept the team he brought to the NFL in 1995 in North Carolina.
The sale to Tepper, per collective bargaining agreement stipulations, requires an approval vote of three-quarters of NFL team owners. Also according to those guidelines, Tepper must acquire 30 percent of the equity in the club — typically, substantially more — and limit his ownership group to no more than 25 partners. He will also be required to sell his minority stake in the Steelers.
Bank of America Stadium was recently renovated but at 23 years old, is not in the modern class of venues in the NFL.
—Field Level Media