It has certainly been a long process, but the end has finally been reached, as David Tepper’s purchase of the Carolina Panthers from former owner Jerry Richardson was finalized yesterday, the sale closing and thus making it official. The former Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner is now the second member of the Steelers’ ownership group to purchase an NFL franchise in recent years.
The previous one to do so stayed within the AFC North, of course, that being Jimmy Haslam. He purchased the Cleveland Browns a handful of years ago, and is hoping to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel as his team looks to scrape its way out of the NFL gutter, having gone 1-31 over the past two years.
Tepper is inheriting a franchise, understandably, in a much better position, only a couple of seasons removed from an appearance in the Super Bowl. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, has an MVP trophy to his name, and they have a good mix of talent with solid coaching.
The new owner’s bid came in at around $2.5 billion, which is the highest price tag ever paid for an American professional sports team at sale. Not that Tepper had a hard time scraping together the money. The prominent hedge-fund manager is estimated to be worth about 11 billion.
In a statement issued yesterday through the team’s website, he addressed the fans and the organization about the closing of the sale and the opening of a new chapter:
I am thrilled to begin this new era of Carolina Panthers football and am humbled by the overwhelming excitement and support for the team,” Tepper said. “On behalf of the fans and myself, I thank Jerry Richardson for bringing the team to the Carolinas and for entrusting me with its future. Winning is the most important thing both on the field and in the community, and I am committed to winning a Super Bowl championship together. I look forward to being part of the Panthers’ family and to supporting this flourishing region.
Tepper spent about a decade in the Steelers’ ownership group when they introduced a slew of new minority owners to surround the Rooney family, many of whom were selling off their shares, some of who had to in order to avoid conflicts with other ventures. Haslam came on board at the same time.
The Panthers went 11-5 last season, posting the second-best record in the NFC South and earning a Wildcard spot, but they would go on to lose to their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints, in the opening round.
Still, it was a rebound season from the disastrous on the year before in which they went just 6-10, and many questioned if the team was entering a regression. They went 15-1 and reached the Super Bowl in 2016, so it was a substantial and surprising fall. They have reached the postseason in three of the past four years, the best in the franchise’s history.