Carolina Panthers finalize terms to sell franchise to David Tepper

David Tepper, the hedge fund billionaire who is the new owner of the Carolina Panthers, claims, according to a 2010 profile in New York Magazine, to have popularized the phrase “It is what it is.” That should mean he will fit right in with NFL coaches, who use the cliché as a default response to avoid saying anything more illuminating.Tepper will also fit in with his new partners, the NFL owners who will approve his purchase of the Panthers from Jerry Richardson for $2.275 billion, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Tepper, whose net worth has been projected by Forbes at $11 billion, was not the highest bidder for the team — The New York Times reported that Ben Navarro, who runs an investment firm, bid $2.6 billion — that went on the market at the end of the 2017 season.The sale price, though, is a record for an NFL franchise and easily eclipses the $1.4 billion Terry and Kim Pegula paid for the Buffalo Bills just four years ago. Tepper had been considered the favorite to land the team and was the preferred choice of many other owners because he has enough money to buy the team without other investors and because, as a minority stakeholder in his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers, he has already been vetted by the NFL. That virtually ensures that Tepper, who must sell his five percent share of the Steelers to comply with league rules, will be easily approved when owners vote on the sale at their regularly scheduled spring meeting next week in Atlanta.Tepper’s purchase concludes a remarkable fall from grace for Richardson. A former player himself, Richardson was the founding owner of the franchise, which began play in 1995. There is a statue of him outside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, and Richardson once wielded considerable influence in league matters. But he abruptly announced he would sell the team last December, after the NFL took over an investigation into workplace misconduct allegations against him that were detailed in a Sports Illustrated story. Shortly after putting the team on the market, Richardson ceded day-to-day control of the team to chief operating officer Tina Becker.It is unclear if Becker, who has not spoken to reporters since, will have a role with the team after Tepper takes over. But the investigation into Richardson, which is being led by former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White, is expected to continue, in part because the NFL wants a new owner to have a full accounting of the existing workplace culture and because the league hopes to use the findings to inform guidelines for other teams.Rapoport has reported that Tepper intends to keep the team in Charlotte and to keep the football braintrust — general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera — intact. New owners, though, typically make changes to the non-football part of the franchise, although Tepper has not made his plans known.

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