The Carolina Panthers will have a new man in the owner’s suite in 2018.
The team announced Wednesday that it has signed a “definitive agreement” to sell the franchise to David Tepper, the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management and a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The deal, which removes ownership from team founder Jerry Richardson, is expected to be worth between $2.2 and $2.3 billion, according to NFL Network. That would surpass the $1.4 billion price for the Buffalo Bills in 2014 as the highest sale price for an NFL team.
“I am thrilled to have been selected to be the next owner of the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said in a statement. “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.”
The purchase is subject to a vote among team owners, who are scheduled in meet in Atlanta next week. The deal requires the approval from the NFL financial committee, followed by three-fourths approval from the 32 owners.
Tepper, 60, is the only known Panthers bidder to have already been vetted by the NFL. He will be forced to sell his five-percent stake in the Steelers, which he has held since 2009.
The transaction is expected to close in July, the Panthers said.
The deal comes five months after Richardson announced plans to sell the team on Dec. 17, the same day Sports Illustrated published a report detailing allegations of sexual and racial misconduct against him.
The SI report said Richardson, 81, allegedly touched female employees and directed inappropriate comments toward them, including asking them if he could shave their legs and if they could could massage his feet. He was also accused of using a racial slur toward a team scout. The report said Richardson paid off at least four women to keep quiet following the allegations.
Richardson founded the Panthers in 1993 — two years before its inaugural season — as the NFL’s 29th franchise. Forbes valued the team at $2.3 billion last September.
“Bringing the Panthers and the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 was enormously fulfilling for Rosalind and me and all of our partners,” Richardson said in a statement. “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.
“I look forward to turning the stewardship of the Panthers over to David Tepper,” he added. “I have enjoyed getting to know him in this process and am confident that he will provide the organization with great leadership in both its football and community initiatives. I wish David and his family the very best as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives.”
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