David Tepper signs Carolina Panthers purchase deal
A source confirmed to ESPN that the Panthers will be sold for $2.2 billion. That will set a record for the highest sale price for an NFL team, surpassing the $1.4 billion that the Buffalo Bills were sold for in 2014. The NBA’s Houston Rockets also sold for $2.2 billion in 2017.
The Charlotte Observer first reported the Panthers’ sale price.
“I am thrilled to have been selected to be the next owner of the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said via statement. “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 other 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 deal would be expected to be approved at the owners meetings in Atlanta on May 22. The purchase needs approval from the NFL financial committee and then three-fourths approval from the 32 owners.
Tepper, the founder of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, has a net worth of $11 billion, according to Forbes, and is committed to keeping the team in Charlotte. Under league rules, Tepper must put up at least 30 percent of the selling price.
Because Tepper, 60, is a minority owner of the Steelers, he has already passed the league’s vetting process. He currently owns 5 percent of the Steelers and would have to sell that interest before completing the Panthers purchase.
The Panthers were put up for sale after the 2017 season following sexual harassment and workplace misconduct allegations against owner Jerry Richardson that were published by Sports Illustrated in December.
“Bringing the Panthers and the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 was enormously fulfilling for Rosalind and me and all of our partners,” Richardson said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support over the last 25 years. You have taken the Panthers into your hearts and made them part of this warm and supportive community. We want to thank all of our past and present players, coaches and staff for their hard work in making the Panthers a great success both on the field and in the community. The personal relationships we have enjoyed have been very meaningful to us.
“I look forward to turning the stewardship of the Panthers over to David Tepper. I have enjoyed getting to know him in this process and am confident that he will provide the organization with great leadership in both its football and community initiatives. I wish David and his family the very best as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives.”
On Dec. 17, Sports Illustrated published a report alleging that Richardson sexually harassed multiple women and used a racial slur toward a team scout. The SI report said the Panthers had reached settlements with at least four former employees regarding inappropriate workplace behavior by Richardson.
Richardson, 81, allegedly made verbal comments about women’s appearances, inappropriately touched female employees and made advances to women that included asking whether he could shave their legs and requests for them to give him foot rubs.
Along with the allegation of using a racial slur that led to a settlement with the former scout, SI noted comments made by Richardson about black players’ appearances and his threat to discipline players who addressed social issues.
On the evening of Dec. 17, Richardson announced in a public letter that he would sell the team after the season.
Ben Navarro, the founder of Charleston, South Carolina-based Sherman Financial Group LLC, was considered with Tepper to be the other top candidate to get Richardson’s recommendation. Michael Rubin, Fanatics owner; Alan Kestenbaum, chairman of Bedrock Industries LP; and Joseph Tsai, Brooklyn Nets majority owner, were also reported to be interested in becoming primary owners of the franchise.
Tepper emerged as the early leader, although Navarro at one point appeared to take the lead. Because Richardson wanted to complete the sale as soon as possible, according to multiple sources, and there were questions about whether owners would approve Navarro immediately, Tepper became the top choice.
Sources told ESPN that Rubin and Tsai bowed out when they were told that they shouldn’t participate if they weren’t prepared to pay “substantially more than $2.5 billion” — $300 million more than the ultimate sale price.
The Panthers hired Steve Greenberg of New York investment bank Allen & Co. to help with the sale. The banking and legal team has worked to sell the LA Clippers, Washington Wizards, St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Nets and other major franchises in recent years.
Tepper arguably is one of the greatest hedge fund managers of this generation. He also has a strong philanthropy résumé, particularly in areas where he has lived.
He donated $3 million over the year to help with hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and Texas. When Hurricane Sandy devastated the New Jersey coast in 2012, Tepper gave out 12,000 $100 gift cards to people in need in 20 different communities.
Tepper grew up in a lower- to middle-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh and received a degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh. Early in his career, he worked as a credit analyst at Goldman Sachs.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell contributed to this report.