It’s not every day that an NFL franchise comes up for sale, let alone one that is relatively successful. While the Carolina Panthers have not won a Super Bowl before in their history, they have been to a couple, which is more than some long-tenured teams can say. The reason for their having come up for sale has nothing to do with the quality of the team’s product, but rather the behavior of its owner.
The reason this story is relevant to our site is the fact that one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ minority owners is among those bidding to become the Panthers’ new majority owner. It would be the second time in recent years that a Steelers minority owner has purchased a franchise, with Jimmy Haslam having bought the Cleveland Browns several years ago.
Earlier yesterday, there was actually a New York Times article that wrote David Tepper was out of the running to purchase the team. The hedge fund billionaire, according to the article, was not willing to push his bid up to the heights that had been reported, in the area of $2.5 billion, settling closer to the $2-2.2 billion range.
But he personally refuted the article in question, speaking to the Charlotte Observer. “The only thing I’m telling you is I haven’t dropped out”, he told the paper. The Pittsburgh native added that the city and its people remind him of his hometown.
Tepper was an early favorite to purchase the team. He has a net worth of around $11 billion, so he certainly would be able to afford the purchase. According to the Times article, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was initially seeking $3 billion for the franchise, which would have shattered records for the sale of an American sports team.
The same article reports that the highest bid is believed to be at $2.6 billion currently, which would still more than suffice in setting a new record for the costliest purchase of a sports team in the country. The Browns and the Buffalo Bills were relatively cheap in comparison.
His Pittsburgh and Steelers ties are part of why Tepper is an attractive potential owner to the league’s other owners. Already a member of the ownership community, though with but a small percentage (believed to be about five percent stake), he would be approved quickly.
The article quoted one owner as saying, “if he’s good enough for Art Rooney [II], he’s good enough for me”. Rooney is the Steelers’ majority owner and the third in line as the majority owner, from his father Dan Rooney and his grandfather Art Rooney, who founded the franchise in 1933.
Assuming that Tepper remains in the running, there are at least three known active bids for the purchase of the Panthers, and there could be others as well. The NFL is hoping to have an offer ready to meet their approval by the next owners meetings in late May.