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Volume 22 No. 26
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Forum: Franchise and personnel news worth watching

Keep your eye on what the Carolina Panthers are doing. This franchise, under new owner David Tepper and President Tom Glick, is being very aggressive as it looks to extend its brand and business. The biggest play is around development, as they have bold designs on creating their own version of what the Cowboys did with The Star in Frisco, Texas, and what the Minnesota Vikings did with its impressive new development in Egan, Minn.

The Panthers are looking to draw from that playbook with a new headquarters and multiuse facility on more than 200 acres just 20 miles south of Charlotte. Initial plans include team offices, an indoor practice facility seating around 10,000, a hotel, a sports medicine facility and corporate and residential projects all completed by 2022. The $200 million to $250 million project would also be a hub for high school and regional sports, as nearby Rock Hill, S.C., is a thriving youth sports market and the home of many NFL players.

It’s a big, vast vision and the team is reportedly seeking $115 million in incentives from the state. There are plenty of questions, and it’s early. But if it happens, it would fit with the team’s marketing efforts to extend its brand regionally throughout the Carolinas. 

But that’s not all. Tepper is eager to bring an MLS team to Charlotte and Glick’s long background in the sport — he was president of Manchester City — gives him plenty of supporters in the league office. Remember, MLS recently announced plans to expand to 30 teams, which fits nicely with the Panthers timeline, the city of Charlotte’s growth pattern and for a market that could be a natural rival to both D.C. United and Atlanta United. Finally, Tepper and Glick have revamped much of the front office on the business side. Changes were expected after inaugural owner Jerry Richardson sold the team last year, and Tepper is moving fast and thinking broadly.

In other Charlotte news, the Hornets lost their talented chief operating officer, Pete Guelli, who starts next week as the CCO of the New York Giants. It was a smart hire by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch. Guelli came to the NBA after 11 years at the Buffalo Bills and he worked successfully with Hornets leadership to revitalize that brand. In my mind, he’s probably done all he could do at that organization, and now goes to the nation’s largest market with an attractive canvas to jump-start a big brand and grow revenue. The Giants brand is one of the most recognized in the world and yet it’s been conservative over the years, leading to opportunities for increased revenue as ownership looks to be more aggressive in the sales, marketing and content space. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Guelli’s moves and the Giants’ commercial business.

Staying on the hiring front: Anastasia Danias Schmidt leaving the NFL to join MLS was a strong hire for the league and gives them some additional muscle in their legal team. A Forty Under 40 honoree in 2012, she was an 18-year veteran at the NFL, and worked under general counsel Jeff Pash. She was instrumental in many of the most important cases over the years, most notably the billion-dollar concussion settlement case. She likely saw the move to MLS as a growth opportunity, especially as the league continues to expand its footprint. She gets an important seat with the league’s other decision-makers as MLS prepares for critical labor negotiations later this year. 

Finally, I am intrigued by the all-star executive team that LA 2028 is building. Let’s look at its leadership team under Casey Wasserman: There is CRO Kathy Carter; CCO Chris Pepe; CBO Brian Lafemina; CMO Amy Gleeson; Dave Mingey, head of partnership marketing and activation; GM Nicole Jeter West; and Zaileen Janmohamed, head of partnership development and innovation. Between them, there are six Forty Under 40 honorees. It’s a strong, accomplished, diverse and young executive team, and there are certainly more hires to come, including an eventual CEO. Yes, some of the risk was taken out of their business goals with its partnership with NBC-Universal, but there are still plenty of challenges in preparing for and producing one of the most significant sports events hitting the U.S. in years. I’m eager to see how it all comes together under this talented group.

First Look podcast, with issues Abe is watching this week, at the 25:20 mark:

Abraham Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.