SBD/Issue 241/Franchises

Sibling Strife Reportedly Led To Sudden Panthers Resignations

Mark's (l) Resignation Seen As
Bigger Surprise Than Jon's (r)
Yesterday's dual resignations of NFL Panthers President Mark Richardson and Panthers Stadium LLC President Jon Richardson were fueled by "ongoing sibling disputes," according to sources cited in a front-page story by Charles Chandler of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The sources said that the brothers had "vastly different ideas about how the organization should be run, which ultimately led their father," team Owner Jerry Richardson, to "decide the best thing for the business was for both of them to leave." The Panthers in a release said that Jon "told staff members last month that he would be stepping aside," related in part to "health issues." The Richardson brothers had "equal authority but different domains" within the organization, and "neither answered to the other." Both will remain part of the Panthers' ownership group, but the "dramatic changes" mean Jerry is now the "only Richardson still involved in the daily operations." The team did not comment about "whether replacements will be hired for their positions, or what sort of succession plan was in place for the top spot in the organization." An NFL spokesperson noted that Mark "will be replaced" on the league's Competition Committee. Chandler notes changes "at the top of the organization have been rare for the Panthers." Jon is the "only stadium president in team history," while Mark has served as team president since '97 (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/2). In addition to the Competition Committee, Mark Richardson sat on the league's Broadcasting Committee and the NFL Network Committee. Jon Richardson was a member of the Stadium Security & Fan Behavior Committee (THE DAILY).

FAMILY MATTERS: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler notes Mark had "been groomed as Jerry Richardson's heir apparent as No. 1 on the Panthers' organizational chart for years," and his resignation is the "one that absolutely has stunned the Panthers' staff." Jon's decision is "mostly lifestyle-related." Though his health is "OK for now, the long battle with cancer has taken a toll" and he "wants to have more time to enjoy life." But Mark's departure "was the shocker," and who eventually assumes Jerry's role as controlling owner is "one of the biggest questions about this announcement." But Fowler writes there is "no doubt that patriarch Jerry Richardson," who underwent heart transplant surgery in February, has "re-asserted himself" in the organization. The Panthers' press release "gave no real reason for why this was happening," so it appears as if there could be "some serious internal discontent" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/2). Also in Charlotte, Tom Sorensen notes nothing Mark or Jon "ever did or said indicated they were dissatisfied or frustrated with their jobs." But sources said that there was "acrimony between Jon and Mark and had been before the stadium was even built." Sorensen writes Jerry Richardson "does not make a decision without considering what comes next," so he "undoubtedly knows who his successor will be." The Panthers reiterated yesterday that Jerry "will neither move nor sell the team." Sorensen: "There is no chance. And even though his sons are gone, the Panthers remain his legacy" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/2).

TOP CAT: Panthers investor Johnny Harris said that Jerry in an address to the team's investors yesterday morning was "committed to the Panthers future in Charlotte and appeared to be 'strong as a bear' and well on his way to a full recovery" after his heart surgery. Harris: "The thing that surprised me was how invigorated he was. He was committed to dealing with this operations change. ... It's pretty clear that the Big Cat is feeling good and is back in charge." Harris noted that Richardson "still plans on heading up" a new CBA between the NFL and NFLPA, adding that the "challenge ahead, proceeding without his sons involved in the day-to-day operations of the team, seems to have reinvigorated" Richardson (GASTON GAZETTE, 9/2). Panthers WR Muhsin Muhammad said, "We all have complete trust and faith in Mr. Richardson's ability to own this organization, put good people in place and run it" (WSOC-ABC, 9/1). But in South Carolina, Darin Gantt writes a "line of succession needs to be in place, even though Richardson's doing well as he recovers from his transplant surgery" (ROCK HILL HERALD, 9/2).

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