Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 25 No. 6

Franchises

It is unknown if Tepper will have any minority partners and what his plans for Bank of America Stadium are
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NFL Panthers this morning formally announced an agreement for Steelers investor David Tepper to purchase the team, and the "official sale price" paid by Tepper was $2.275B, according to a source cited by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Of the sum, $2.2B "will be paid in cash" by Tepper, with $75M deferred (TWITTER.com, 5/16). O'Melveny & Myers repped Tepper on the deal, which is expected to close in July. Allen & Co. handled the sale for the Panthers, who were also represented by Proskauer (THE DAILY). In Charlotte, Peralta, Person, Rodrigue & Rothacker in a front-page piece report it is unknown if Tepper will "have any minority partners and what are his plans for Bank of America Stadium." Hornets investor and NASCAR team co-Owner Felix Sabates, who had looked to pull together a local ownership group earlier in the sales process, said of Tepper, "He loves Charlotte. I think he will make the necessary investments to make the team go forward." Sabates said that Tepper "does not need to take on any investors but might bring in local partners eventually." Tepper has "long been involved in charitable organizations in the different areas where he has planted roots" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/16). 

PATH TO VICTORY: ESPN.com's David Newton cited sources as saying that Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson "wanted to complete the sale as soon as possible with the allegations hanging over him, and Tepper had the easiest path to complete the transaction" (ESPN.com, 5/15). In DC, Mark Maske notes Richardson is "believed to have favored Tepper over other bidders, some of whom may have been willing to pay a higher price, because he plans to keep the team in North Carolina" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/16). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton notes Tepper was also the "long preferred buyer from inside the NFL." While other candidates would have needed more vetting, Tepper is a "known quantity as a current minority owner" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/16). In N.Y., Ken Belson reports South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro, who also bid to buy the Panthers, was "unable to raise" the estimated $2.6B he was said to have offered. Questions were also being raised about his "holdings in companies that offer credit cards to low-income consumers." Tepper offered "several hundred million dollars less than Navarro." One NFL owner said of Tepper, "If he's good enough for [late Steelers Owner] Art Rooney, he's good enough for me." Tepper is "unlikely to face much opposition when the NFL owners on the financial committee review his application before sending it to the full ownership to vote on" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16). Navarro in a statement said, "It would have been a privilege to become the stewards of this iconic franchise to ensure its home remains in the Carolinas where it belongs, to establish a new era of leadership and excellence on and off the field, and to leverage the team's NFL platform to further our quest to help all children gain access to a great education" (ESPN.com, 5/15).

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Darin Gantt noted Tepper told people involved that one of the things he liked about the purchase of the Panthers was the "relative stability of their football operation, suggesting he's not looking to make immediate changes there." Sources said that Tepper has met with Panthers GM Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera, and "seems comfortable with them." Other changes throughout the organization "seem likely" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/15). In Greensboro, Ed Hardin writes Tepper "means business, and that means repairing the Panthers' brand, if not restoring its soul." Fixing the brand "might take time, but he'll insist the franchise clean up its act immediately." That might mean a "lot of new employees" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 5/16). ESPN.com's Newton wrote it "wouldn't surprise" if Tepper made "changes on the business side of the franchise" (ESPN.com, 5/15). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes what Tepper's purchase shows is that the NFL "remains America's undisputed king." Owning a franchise is as "close to a guaranteed moneymaker as there is," and it is "not hard to see why." The NFL "has its flaws, no question," but making its "wealthy owners even wealthier is not one of them" (USA TODAY, 5/16).

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: ESPN.com's Newton wrote Tepper will likely "be more visible and accessible than Richardson," who "hasn't granted interviews in more than five years." Tepper "recently called two news organizations that reported he was out of the running for the Panthers to tell them they were wrong." Tepper is "not afraid to make bold decisions" (ESPN.com, 5/15). In Charlotte, Peralta & Rothacker in a front-page piece note Tepper "became a billionaire widely known to CNBC watchers by scoring on risky investments, especially during the financial crisis." Sabates said, "I can promise you this, he's not going to lock himself up inside a skybox." Tepper is a "lifelong Steelers fan" and bought a 5% share of them in '09. Based on the "current valuation of the Steelers," Tepper's 5% share is worth $122.5M. Sabates: "He's the perfect guy to buy the team. He knows the game. He's a poor kid from Pittsburgh who has done well" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/16).

THE TRUMP ANGLE: In Charlotte, Bruce Henderson writes Tepper has been "highly critical" of President Trump (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/16). SI.com's Jonathan Jones noted Tepper will "soon join a small group of NFL owners who have spoken out against Trump" (SI.com, 5/15). In DC, Eli Rosenberg writes it is "unknown how Tepper will conduct himself as an owner in a time of tension between the NFL and President Trump, but he has a history of speaking about Trump in unsparing terms" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/16). In N.Y., Ethan Sears reports Tepper has "called Trump a 'demented, narcissistic scumbag' and 'the father of lies'" (N.Y. POST, 5/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote if nothing else, Tepper is a "little more interesting than most new NFL owners" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/15). 

CASH FLOW: NFL Network's Rapoport said Tepper is "expected to enhance" Bank of America Stadium, but not build a "new stadium compared to one of the finalists, who actually wanted to move the team to South Carolina" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 5/15). In Charlotte, Steve Harrison reports the city of Charlotte has set aside $75M for a "second round of renovations to Bank of America Stadium -- but that money isn't available for four years." The $75M would "come from the city's Convention Center fund, which comes from two taxes." The first is a 3% tax on "hotel and motel rooms in the county," and the second is a 1% tax "on restaurant and bar tabs" in Mecklenburg County. City officials believe the new owner "would want additional renovations to the 22-year-old stadium." But it is possible that the city and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority could "tap into millions of additional tourism dollars" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/16). 

NOT DONE WITH RICHARDSON: In Charlotte, Joseph Person reports questions remain about the "pace and scope of the league's investigation into allegations of sexual and racial misconduct by Richardson." Industry experts said that they "expect the NFL to proceed with the investigation of Richardson regardless of the sale." Experts say that Tepper "could include a provision in his contract requiring Richardson to address any post-sale liabilities" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/16). 

Bisciotti and Cass acknowledged that the team has some work to do in winning back some fans
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Ravens will "lower their concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium" for the '18 season in the latest move to "try and improve a fraying relationship with their fan base," according to Jeff Zrebiec of the BALTIMORE SUN. The decision "was foreshadowed" by Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti at his State of the Ravens press conference in February. Bisciotti "acknowledged that the Ravens would take a 'hard look' at reducing concession prices." However, Bisciotti said to do that, the organization would "need to renegotiate its contract with Aramark, the official food vendor at M&T Bank Stadium." The move is "part of an increased effort to be more fan friendly" after a '17 season where the team "missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year." The number of empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium "became a major storyline, as did the fan response to the roughly dozen players who knelt during the national anthem before the team's game in London." Bisciotti and Ravens President Dick Cass have "acknowledged that the team has some work to do in winning back some fans." Cass has also been "extremely active this offseason meeting with sponsors, business partners and fan groups" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/15).

FOLLOW THE LEADER: ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley noted over the past few months the Ravens "invited fans to ask questions at a pre-draft news conference; held a question-and-answer session with fans at the team facility" with Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and Exec VP & GM Ozzie Newsome; and had Cass "meet and talk to fan clubs." The Ravens are "following the lead" of the Falcons, who dropped prices of concessions after moving into the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and "made more money." The Falcons "lowered prices on food and beverage" by 50% and fans spent 16% more (ESPN.com, 5/15). ESPN's Michelle Beadle asked of the prices, "How much are you reducing them by? ... If you're reducing a Coke by a quarter, I don't know that that's great." ESPN's Jalen Rose added, "If you reduce the price but not drastically, it just becomes a conversation item. Ultimately in sports, regardless of who's in uniform, if your team wins people will come to support" ("Get Up!," ESPN, 5/16).

Former Viking Chris Kluwe in '14 threatened to sue the team after a coach used anti-gay language
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Vikings will "host a summit and fundraiser June 21 at their new headquarters in Eagan designed to promote LGBTQ inclusion in sports and raise money for LGBTQ groups," according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The Vikings, believed to be the "first NFL team to host an event like this, organized the fundraiser in part to fulfill a pledge they made in a settlement" with former P Chris Kluwe. Kluwe "threatened to sue the team" in '14 after Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer "used anti-gay language." Kluwe "will be one of the speakers at the event," which includes Gold Medal-winning U.S. diver Greg Louganis and former Vikings DE Esera Tuaolo. The team will invite 200 people "from within the organization, other NFL teams and from colleges and high schools around the Twin Cities." There will be four panels that will "highlight how coaches and players can make sports a more welcome environment for LGBTQ athletes, while the fundraising aspect of the night will include a silent auction for local and national LGBTQ groups." Vikings COO Kevin Warren said that the team will "plan on holding a similar summit in years to come" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/16). NFL Dir of Football Development Samantha Rapoport said that the summit is the "first of its kind for any team, though other franchises have worked with LGBTQ organizations like You Can Play in the past." Rapoport said that the Vikings' event is the "latest step in the league's effort to be more inclusive of LGBTQ athletes and employees." The NFL will also "have a float" in the N.Y. Pride parade this year for the first time (USA TODAY, 5/16). 

USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes the Mariners are "stuck" with 2B Robinson Canó and the $120M remaining on his contract through '23 despite his 80-game suspension for using a banned substance. The Mariners now have "no idea how much of his past performance was impacted by performance-enhancing drugs, whether he'll ever again be the same player, but knowing he [no] longer will be marketable to their fanbase" (USA TODAY, 5/16). MLB Network's Dan O'Dowd: This player represents their brand. ... Now your star player's put the franchise into a position where it has a stain on it." He added the Mariners "have to live with this now for the next five years" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 5/15).

SO FAR, SO GOOD: The Pirates have occupied first place in the NL Central for 22 days so far this season, and team Chair Bob Nutting said while it is early in the year, the team has a "long-term plan" to get "younger, hungrier and more aggressive." The team was criticized for trading CF Andrew McCutchen and P Gerrit Cole this offseason, but Nutting said, "I'm going to continue to do everything I can to put winning teams on the field. That's what we've relentlessly tried to do every year." He added there is still a "lot of work to do, internally and externally." However, he said, "We're making good progress and we're on the right path" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/15). 

DON'T FORGET US: The Orioles will offer a "special senior ticket package" to the June 28 game against the Mariners. Fans at least 60 years old can buy a package that "includes a lower level or club level ticket and an Orioles travel umbrella." The move comes as the team this season began a new initiative that "allows parents to bring two kids to Camden Yards for free" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/14).