After months of speculation and multiple bidders and ownership group, it appears that the Carolina Panthers are being sold this week to hedge fund billionaire and Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner David Tepper. According to multiple sources, the deal, which is said to be worth a record $2.2 billion, could be signed to today and ratified by NFL owners at next week’s Spring League Meeting – while Tepper’s bid was said to not be the highest of bidders that included Charleston’s Ben Navarro and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin, the NFL is already familiar with Tepper as a minority owner, so he is expected to be solidified as owner easily.
Let’s not bury the lede here and answer the most important question on Panthers’ fans minds: Tepper plans to keep the team in Charlotte.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 11, 2018
Tepper also set himself apart from other bidders by his ability to pay cash for the team, which he reportedly will; the 60-year old hedge fund manager who once paid his own way through the University of Pittsburgh by working at the library on campus is said by Forbes to have a net worth of $11 billion. He earned an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, although it had a different name when he was attending – it’s been called the Tepper School of Business ever since the magnate donated $55m to the school in 2004.
Two things must happen for the sale to become official: Tepper must sell his 5% minority stake in the Steelers he purchased in 2009, said to be worth north of $120m, and he must be approved by three-fourths of NFL owners at next week’s meeting – neither should be an issue as he was vetted when he made the minority purchase.
Tepper visited Charlotte in early April to take a tour of Bank of America Stadium. “I have to tell you, for me, I like the people down there. They remind me of my original hometown, Pittsburgh,” Tepper told the Charlotte Observer in April.
Panthers owner and founder Jerry Richardson announced in December that he would be selling the team the same day that the NFL took over an investigation investigating workplace misconduct in the Panthers organization; the team officially went up for sale when the Panthers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Saints. COO Tina Becker has been running the day-to-day operations of the team since December when an explosive Sports Illustrated report detailed multiple allegations of workplace misconduct from former employees.
The owner and proprietor of the Appaloosa Management hedge fund firm is said to be the “greatest hedge fund manager of his generation” – the Miami-based firm manages $17 billion worth of capital, although Tepper once described himself as a “regular upper-middle class guy who happens to be a billionaire”. The $2.2 billion dollar purchase price will be the largest sum paid for an NFL team, besting the $1.4 billion paid for the Buffalo Bills four years ago.
Tepper doesn’t shy away from spending his money, as shown in this 2010 New York Magazine profile:
This is not to say that Tepper doesn’t occasionally act like a billionaire. In 2004, he donated $55 million to his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon. Recently, when the owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers indicated they were willing to sell a stake in the team, he seized the opportunity with childlike enthusiasm. “Owning your favorite football team? Getting to watch all the games from the field? That’s every little boy’s dream,” says his friend Marc Kramer. (So is this: Flying private to every game with four of your closest friends. “It’s like a middle-aged version of Entourage,” says Kramer.) Five years ago, the Teppers hired Ashlee Simpson to sing at their daughter’s bat mitzvah. For his own 50th, he threw himself a little get-together at the Mandarin Oriental, during which he danced onstage with Ellen DeGeneres and sang “All I Wanna Do” and “If It Makes You Happy” with Sheryl Crow.
The billionaire doesn’t shy away from philanthropic endeavors either, with a foundation that bears his name donating $3 million in hurricane relief last year to help Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey; Tepper also sits on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation, which raises money from hedge fund leaders for New York anti-poverty efforts. His main philanthropic focus appears to be addressing hunger issues, as his foundation has donated $15 million to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and has donated millions of dollars to Feeding America.
It is unclear at this time whether Tepper will be the sole owner or have minority owners.
Panthers owner-to-be David Tepper wants Carolina’s football side of the business to mirror the Steelers. Tepper wants continuity, stability, progressive thinking on player contract extensions, and not setting the market on free agents. He wants the Steeler way in Carolina.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 15, 2018