During the 2017 NFL season, allegations of inappropriate behavior surfaced against Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. The one-time player who turned his championship check into a series of fast food restaurants had been the leading force in bringing a team to the Carolinas in 1993. To resolve the issue and eliminate the distraction for the team that was making a playoff run, Richardson announced that he would put the team up for sale once the season was over. He did so, and that sale is almost complete. The buyer is hedge fund billionaire David Tepper, currently a minority owner in the Pittsburgh Steelers — and according to league sources the purchase price is $2.275 billion, the most ever paid for a U.S. sports franchise.
Richardson made a statement about the sale:
Bringing the Panthers and the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 was enormously fulfilling for Rosalind and me and all of our partners.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.
As did new owner Tepper:
I am thrilled to have been selected to be the next owner of the Carolina Panthers. 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.
With the sale, NFL league rules say that a single person can't have ownership in more than one team, forcing Tepper to put his part of the Steelers up for sale. Steelers President Art Rooney II spoke about having worked with Tepper:
David Tepper has been a good partner in the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership group since 2009. Though I am sorry he will be leaving us, I am excited for David to become the new owner of the Carolina Panthers. I wish David all the best as he completes the process to finalize the transaction and assumes the leadership of the Panthers' organization.
While the sale has been made, it will need to be ratified by the NFL Owners group with three-quarters of the 32 owners needing to approve. The group is meeting next week in Atlanta where the vote will take place. The last NFL team to sell was the Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion… which now seems like a bargain.