ATLANTA — NFL owners approved the sale of the Carolina Panthers from Jerry Richardson to billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper.
The owners’ ratification vote came Tuesday as they began their two-day spring meeting at an Atlanta hotel. It was considered a mere formality, given that Tepper previously had been vetted and approved as a minority partner in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He must sell his stake in the Steelers. His purchase of the Panthers from Richardson, thought to be for approximately $2.2 billion, is scheduled to close in July.
Tepper is the founder and president of Appaloosa Management, and his wealth is estimated by Forbes at $11 billion. He is far from publicity-shy and has been particularly outspoken in his criticism of President Trump.
Richardson is being investigated by the NFL after being accused last year of workplace misconduct. He announced in December that he would sell the franchise just after Sports Illustrated reported 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.
The owners’ approval of the deal was unanimous, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference at which he presented Tepper as the new Panthers owner.
“Listen, I’m thrilled about this,” Tepper said. “It’s more than fantastic, I guess.”
The news conference was relatively brief but Tepper’s charisma — and his unconventional public approach, by the usual standards of NFL owners — was on display. He was engaging and joked with reporters. He also made it clear that he intends to keep the franchise where it is rather than exploring a potential relocation.
“There is a logical place for this team,” Tepper said. “It’s Charlotte. It is the Carolina Panthers.”
Tepper said he still is in the process of working through the ownership structure of the team and deciding whether to add any partners. He said he will be wary of making changes to the franchise’s football operation. He said little about the circumstances under which the sale by Richardson took place.
“I can’t change much before I actually buy the team,” Tepper said. “And I don’t know exactly what’s there because I haven’t been there. So for me to exactly speak about that … is almost impossible. … I’m a person that believes in equality for everybody, men and women.”
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