Hedge fund billionaire David Tepper is completing arrangements to purchase the Carolina Panthers from Jerry Richardson for approximately $2.2 billion with the expectation that he would keep the franchise in the Charlotte area, according to multiple people familiar with the sale process, confirming reports.
Tepper, currently a minority partner in the Pittsburgh Steelers, could be approved by the other NFL owners as the new Panthers owner as soon as next week. The owners are scheduled to meet next Tuesday and Wednesday in Atlanta and could vote then to ratify the deal, which would complete the process put in motion last year after Richardson was accused of workplace misconduct. Tepper would be required to sell his share of the Steelers.
Tepper, 60, is the founder and president of Appaloosa Management. He is described as “arguably the greatest hedge fund manager of his generation” by Forbes, which estimates his net worth at $11 billion. Tepper’s hedge fund firm is based in Miami Beach and manages about $17 billion, according to Forbes.
He already has been vetted and approved by the league and the owners as a Steelers partner, so the ratification process could be relatively seamless. The deal would be scrutinized by the owners on the NFL’s finance committee and then would require the approval of at least 24 of 32 owners.
“If he’s approved by the finance committee, then he will sail through,” a high-ranking official with one NFL team said.
Under league rules, the principal owner must own at least 30 percent of the franchise.
Richardson is believed to have favored Tepper over other bidders, some of whom may have been willing to pay a higher price, because he plans to keep the team in North Carolina, those people familiar with the negotiations said.
The estimated sale price of $2.1 billion to $2.2 billion would set a record for an NFL team. The Buffalo Bills were purchased by Terry and Kim Pegula from the Ralph Wilson estate for $1.4 billion in 2014. The NBA’s Houston Rockets were sold last year from Leslie Alexander to casino and restaurant billionaire Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion.
The Panthers deal comes just after Monday’s ruling by the Supreme Court clearing the path for states to legalize sports gambling. The NFL long had opposed the spread of legal sports betting, but the ruling could create new revenue streams for teams and owners. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, told CNBC on Monday that the value of professional sports franchises could double based on the ruling.
Richardson announced in December that he would sell the Panthers following a report by Sports Illustrated that at least four former team employees received significant financial settlements related to inappropriate behavior and comments in the workplace by Richardson, including sexually suggestive remarks and acts. There also was an incident, according to the report, in which Richardson used a racial slur at an African-American scout for the team.
The NFL announced it would investigate Richardson.
Houston Texans owner Robert McNair publicly defended Richardson at the annual league meeting in March in Orlando. McNair called Richardson “an outstanding person” and said that “sometimes things get misunderstood.” McNair also credited Richardson with running a successful franchise in Charlotte.
“I think he was a great owner,” McNair said in March. “He started with nothing and became successful in business and then got the team, which he made it Carolina’s team and not Charlotte’s team. I thought that was smart. I think that it’s a great asset over there in Carolina’s community, and it’s there because of Jerry and the bankers there supported him. They had confidence in him.”
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