SBJ/20090907/This Week's News

Owners’ sons step down from Panthers posts

Carolina Panthers President Mark Richardson and his brother Jon, the president of stadium operations, left the Panthers’ front office with a sudden announcement last week. Both had been with the team since its earliest days.

Their father, majority owner Jerry Richardson, remains in charge, while Mark and Jon retain ownership shares but have no day-to-day role with the organization.

Mark was a member of the NFL’s competition committee, broadcasting committee and NFL Network committee. Jon Richardson was a member of the stadium security and fan behavior committee.

Jerry Richardson, who is 73, had heart-replacement surgery in February. In recent months, those around the team say, Richardson recovered his stamina and began taking a closer look at the franchise. It’s obvious he wanted changes made, though nothing has been said publicly.

Morrison

The Panthers named Danny Morrison, the 55-year-old athletic director at Texas Christian University, as Mark Richardson’s replacement.

Morrison has spent his career in college athletics, including stops at Jerry Richardson’s alma mater, Wofford College, and a stint as commissioner of the Southern Conference. He grew up in the Carolinas and has counted the elder Richardson as a mentor for nearly 40 years.

Morrison is scheduled to start work in late September.

“You can have a fabulous situation where you are and then an incredible opportunity comes around,” he said. “This is one of those incredible opportunities to work in a class organization and compete at the very highest level of professional sports.

“I have a learning curve having not been in the NFL before. I think I have a good background with having played, coached, athletic administration, commissioner of a conference. It’s a broad background … I’ve known Mr. Richardson for enough years to know that he has high, high expectations, OK? That was understood from day one. The main question I had for him is the lack of NFL experience and Mr. Richardson wasn’t worried about that.”

Industry experts say Morrison will be able to adapt to the NFL, and they predict the transition will be made smoother by what Mark and Jon Richardson left behind.

“I think Jerry is extraordinarily lucky to find a guy like this available from a qualifications standpoint and in terms of the mutual respect they have for one another,” said Max Muhleman, principal at Private Sports Consulting and a key adviser to the Richardsons when they were pursuing the franchise.

Erik Spanberg writes for The Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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