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Volume 21 No. 38
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Sources see fast, record sale of Panthers

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and his investment bank selling the club have their sights set on a record value for an American sports franchise, and perhaps an unofficial record for speed of the transaction.


According to financial and other sources familiar with the sales process, Allen & Co. has indicated it expects the deal to close as early as the late March NFL owners meeting, and if not then by the mid-May owners meeting. The price: around $2.5 billion, the sources said.


That would easily top the highest price paid in the NFL, $1.4 billion in 2014 for the Buffalo Bills, and supersede the $2.2 billion American sports franchise record for the Houston Rockets last year.


Asked why given declining TV ratings someone might pay that amount, one investment banker said, “Did anyone think Fox would pay as much as they did for ‘Thursday Night [Football]’? It’s still the most exclusive club in the world. I think it’s insanely too rich given everything they are facing.”


Fox Sports recently agreed to pay about $600 million annually for “Thursday Night Football” for five years, a package that NBC and CBS privately claim they were losing money on that jointly paid $450 million a year.


Richardson is selling the team after a December report accused him of inappropriate behavior with some female employees that led to private legal settlements. The NFL hired former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White to investigate the situation, which might explain the ambitious timetable to complete a sale.


Allen & Co.’s Steve Greenberg, who is handling the sale, did not reply for comment. Allen & Co. has released financial information to prospective buyers who have signed nondisclosure agreements, the sources said.


One wild card in the process is whether Richardson would sell to a buyer who is not committed to keeping the team in Charlotte. The club can relocate without penalty after the next season. However, none of the sources anticipate the team moving given the strength of the Charlotte market.