The sale of the Carolina Panthers to hedge fund billionaire David Tepper for an NFL record $2.275 billion is official, it was announced Monday.
Tepper purchased the team from Panthers founder Jerry Richardson, who was fined $2.75 million by the NFL for sexual and racial workplace misconduct on June 28.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Richardson issued a statement saying he and his wife Rosalind “are grateful to the Carolina community for the love and support you have shown your Panthers. Your enthusiasm for football and devotion to the team has been a source of strength for us and for everyone who calls the Carolinas home.”
He also thanked the players, saying he has “the highest respect for the men who wear the Panthers jersey.”
Finally, he wished Tepper “all the best,” adding that “the team is in good hands.”
Tepper now officially takes over the day-to-day operations of the team. Since being unanimously approved by the NFL’s owners during the May spring meetings in Atlanta, Tepper has met with team captains and other veteran players, as well as Bank of America Stadium employees on the business side.
He also has completed the paperwork, which included removing himself from his 5 percent ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tepper has been limited in what he could say about the sale, which shatters the league’s previous record purchase price of $1.4 billion for the Buffalo Bills in 2014. But judging by his business moves in the past, he won’t be afraid to make changes.
“David will be a good owner,” Steelers owner Art Rooney II told ESPN at the league meetings. “I’m excited for him to be a part of the league. He has great passion for the game of football … loves the game. He came from Pittsburgh, what else can you ask for?”
Asked why he decided to purchase the Panthers, Tepper reminded he’s been “hanging around” the league for nine years with the Steelers.
“This opportunity came up,” he said. “It’s a fantastic place with a fantastic football team. It’s a great football area. Good people.
“People make fun of me for saying this, but it’s very comfortable down there. For me, we do a lot of charity around the country, so it’s a fantastic platform.”
Tepper re-emphasized what he’s said all along — that the team will remain in Charlotte and there are no plans to build a new stadium outside the city.
“What’s the name of the team?” he asked. “It’s gonna stay the Carolina Panthers. Charlotte is a logical place for a stadium. As far as a new stadium, you’re asking me too much. The only thing I have a market on right now is a lack of knowledge. I’ll call it stupidity.”
Now the question is how Tepper will change the culture that led to the investigation into Richardson, who purchased the team for $140 million in 1993. The new owner was briefed separately by independent investigator Mary Jo White prior to Richardson’s fine being announced.
“I’ve had a business for 25 years. I’m a person that believes in equality for everybody, including men and women,” Tepper said shortly after being introduced by commissioner Roger Goodell at the spring meetings in May. “… Anything that comes out of [the NFL investigation into Richardson] is the past. The past is the past. The future will be that.”
As for the on-the-field product, Tepper said there are no plans to make changes to a team that has made the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, including the Super Bowl in 2015, under coach Ron Rivera.
“There’s a great team down there right now,” Tepper said. “Sometimes it’s better to do nothing than something. You want to be very careful when you do anything.
“The first thing I care about is winning. The second thing I care about is winning. The third thing I care about is?”
Tepper, the founder of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, has a net worth of $11 billion, according to Forbes.
His ability to write a check for the purchase put him ahead of other candidates in the process that began in February. That the league, according to sources, encouraged Richardson to complete the sale in time for a vote at the spring meetings also worked to Tepper’s favor.
For Tepper, this was the culmination of a dream for somebody who couldn’t afford to go to an NFL game as a kid. He was almost giddy after the owners’ vote.
“Listen, I’m thrilled about this,” he said. “It’s more than fantastic.”