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Volume 24 No. 176
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Felix Sabates Says SMI's Smith Family "Very Interested" In Joining Bid To Buy NFL Panthers

Hornets investor and NASCAR team co-Owner Felix Sabates yesterday said that he is "talking to the Smith motorsports family about joining his group" that is exploring a bid for the NFL Panthers, according to Rothacker & Peralta of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. SMI Exec Chair Bruton Smith and President & CEO Marcus Smith have "both expressed interest" in buying the Panthers if they ever came up for sale. Sabates said he has talked with Marcus, and they are "very interested in joining our group." Sabates said that his group, which started with five businessmen, has "added two race car drivers whom he declined to name." He added that he is "not the majority owner by a 'long shot.'" Sabates has said that his group also "includes two of the team's existing minority owners," although he has "declined to name them as well." Sabates said he talked with Allen & Co. Managing Dir Steve Greenberg last Friday, and they had a "very nice conversation." He added that the next step for Allen & Co. is to "furnish potential bidders with more information." Sabates has previously said that his group has "hired consultants to help with the bid." He also has repeatedly said that a new domed stadium is "necessary to make buying the team financially worthwhile" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/11). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes one of the qualities Panthers' fans "ought to like about Sabates is that we know him." Sorensen: "I can imagine him at a long table with potential investors who have never met the man." At the "end of the hour, they believe." Sabates will "invest a project with his personality and passion, and he'll have fun doing it." That fun is "contagious" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/11).

POTENTIAL STADIUM SITE? Charlotte-based WCNC-NBC's Rad Berky cited sources as saying that there is "interest in building a new stadium" for the Panthers in the Carowinds Boulevard area. Sabates "would not confirm" that he is looking at local resident Jim Miller's farm as a potential stadium site. But the Miller farm would "fit that bill with ample space for high-revenue parking, something an uptown location would likely not be able to offer" (WCNC.com, 1/9).