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Volume 25 No. 64

Franchises

Tepper (l) would have to sell his portion of the Steelers before completing the Panthers purchase
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Steelers investor David Tepper is "expected to sign a deal" today to buy the Panthers for $2.2B in cash, according to Peralta, Rothacker, Rodrigue & Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. A source said that the deal will be "subject to an owners' vote at the next NFL meeting, which runs next Monday through Wednesday in Atlanta." The $2.2B would be a "record for an NFL franchise," besting the $1.4B price for the Bills in '14. It would also match the $2.2B recent record sale price for the Rockets. Tepper "prevailed among a group of bidders" that included South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro, Canadian steel magnate Alan Kestenbaum and Fanatics Founder & Exec Chair Michael Rubin (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 5/15). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Darin Gantt notes lawyers were "still going through the final points of the sale yesterday in Charlotte, and no speed bumps are expected in the deal" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/15). ESPN.com's David Newton notes because Tepper is a minority owner of the Steelers, he has "already passed the league's vetting process." He currently owns 5% of the Steelers and would have to "sell that interest before completing the Panthers purchase." A source said that Tepper is "committed to keeping the team in Charlotte." Under league rules, Tepper "must put up at least" 30% of the selling price (ESPN.com, 5/15).

MONEY MATTERS: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes Allen & Co.'s Steve Greenberg advised Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson on the sale, and while Richardson "initially sought" at least $3B for his team, he "trimmed his expectations when no potential buyers emerged at that price." Tepper offered "several hundred million dollars less than Navarro, but was favored by more owners because of his substantial wealth," estimated at $11B. The sale of the Panthers is being "widely watched in the league because the final price will become a benchmark for other team sales." Sports bankers said that the Broncos, Saints and Titans "could change hands in the next few years" (NYTIMES.com, 5/15). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said, "It was smart of Tepper to get this done before somebody else shows up and says, ‘Oh, wait. Right now, the price is $2.6 billion? I’ll give you $4 billion.’ Get this deal done before everybody understands where this is going to go and before the values do start to go up” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 5/15).

GETTING TO WORK: In Greensboro, Ed Hardin writes Tepper will "arrive with experience and his own plans that he has been devising for years." Currently under investigation by the league, Richardson and the "entire working environment is being scrutinized from the top down." Tepper "isn’t likely to want complete continuity in terms of personnel or company policies." While the fans are "focused on big-picture issues such as the long-term viability of the current stadium and the future of permanent seat licenses, the employees themselves have to be wondering how much of a shakeup is coming." Tepper "isn’t coming to Charlotte as some sort of calling." He is coming to "run a football franchise and to make money." He is "already the second-richest owner in the NFL" behind Seahawks Owner Paul Allen (GREENSBORO.com, 5/15). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes of Tepper's intention to keep the team in the city, "I have no reason to believe he’s planning to go elsewhere, but it’s important to hear it from him." Tepper also "needs to address the stadium issue at the same time, preferably saying that Bank of America Stadium can be the team's home for a couple of decades to come as long as upgrades continue to be made" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/15).

TWITTER REAX: Charlotte Observer's Jourdan Rodrigue notes Tepper's was "not the high bid," but with "that much cash with no snags, plus the perception that this might help start to tie this saga up quickly - investigation included - likely sweetened the pot." SI.com's Andrew Brandt: "Sale of @Panthers to David Tepper likely signed before Supreme Court decision opening up sport betting yesterday. Franchise values will rise; he's already made money on his investment." Football writer Chris Brown writes Tepper "will be an interesting new voice in owners meetings," and he also "immediately vaults into upper echelon of wealthiest owners." CarolinaHuddle.com's Jeremy Igo: "Tepper does not strike me as a NFL logo at midfield kind of owner." Charlotte-based WFNZ-FM's Chris McClain wrote callers who are "rooting for Tepper to fire" coach Ron Rivera and GM Marty Hurney are "driving me insane" (TWITTER.com, 5/15).

Wednesday's Jets-Golden Knights Game 3 in Las Vegas is averaging $448 on StubHub
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tickets to Golden Knights home games during the playoffs have been "among the most expensive, if not the priciest, on the resale market in the NHL," and with the expansion team just three wins from the Stanley Cup Final, the market for games at T-Mobile Arena is "only heating up," according to Eli Segall of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. StubHub Communications Manager Cameron Papp said, "It’s the hottest ticket around." As of yesterday, the average sale price on StubHub for tomorrow's Game 3 against the Jets -- the Golden Knights' "first home game this round -- was $488." For Friday’s Game 4, the average price "was $567." On SeatGeek, tickets to first-round home games at T-Mobile "sold for an average of $297, and then sold for an average of $309 in the second round." SeatGeek Communications Manager Chris Leyden said that both tallies "were the highest in the NHL on the site." He added that overall, demand for tickets in Las Vegas is "already approaching what some teams get" for the Stanley Cup Final (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/15).

WELCOME PARTY: In Las Vegas, Art Marroquin notes the Golden Knights' Marc-Andre Fleury, Nate Schmidt, Deryk Engelland and Jonathan Marchessault are "now welcoming airline passengers to Las Vegas on a series of messages played throughout the nation’s eighth-busiest airport." McCarran Int'l Airport Public Information Administrator Christine Crews said that the four players "set aside time to record the brief bulletins in the lead-up to the best-of-seven Western Conference Final." Loud music and "chants of 'Go, Knights, Go' accompany the high-energy messages that will air year-round, with a particularly heavy rotation throughout the Knights’ remaining playoff run." Recorded messages from other sports figures with Las Vegas ties "can also be heard at the airport, including NASCAR’s Kyle and Kurt Busch and former UNLV basketball player Patrick McCaw" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/15). 

In DC, Steven Goff cites sources as saying that Everton F Wayne Rooney and DC United have "resolved major issues in their negotiations and could soon finalize a deal that clears the way" for him to "join the MLS club this summer." The sides continue to "work though minor matters, and barring significant setbacks," Rooney seems likely to visit DC in the "next two weeks for closing meetings and a physical." If a deal is struck, Rooney would "not be eligible to play until the MLS transfer and trade window opens July 10" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/15).

NICE & COZY: In Milwaukee, Jeff Maillet noted the weather has been "brutal in April and May, and that's a huge reason why there has been lots of empty seats" in MLB ballparks. However, Brewers fans continue to "buck that trend ... and having a roof and a talented team sure help." Through 19 games at Miller Park, the Brewers "rank No. 10 -- with an average attendance of 32,995 -- out of the 30 clubs." The Brewers also "rank No. 7 overall (31,638) when they're on the road" (JSONLINE.com, 5/14).

WINNING FORMULA: In Detroit, Bill Shea noted while Pistons Owner Tom Gores and his operatives have "found success in using their M&A playbook in other industries ... it hasn’t worked nearly as well with winning basketball games." The Pistons have one playoff appearance have a "reputation for mediocre basketball and a questionable front office." Gores is among a "handful of private equity and venture capital billionaires who own NBA teams, and they have a mixed record of success." The key "appears to be simple: Some owners have hired the right personnel executives and coaches, and perhaps had a bit of luck, to establish consistent winners." Gores "hasn’t done that" (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 5/13).

A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME: In Boston, Nick Cafardo wondered why the Orioles are "such a mess?" The Orioles’ problem is "team ownership, and perhaps it always has been during the Angelos family’s run." Word is that Orioles Chair & CEO Peter Angelos is "not in the best of health and that his sons, John and Lou, have taken over running the team." There have been reports that Exec VP/Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has been "'thrown out of the cockpit,' but no one has any idea who’s flying the plane." Cafardo: "This is the Baltimore Orioles, for goodness sake. ... Get your act together" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/13).