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).