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Volume 23 No. 23
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Forum: The big, swift ambitions of David Tepper’s sports group

No pro sports organization has more on its plate than David Tepper’s. MLS awarded Tepper Sports & Entertainment the league’s 30th franchise last month and announced the team will launch in a very aggressive time frame of 2021. With that news, I thought through the group’s dizzying and daunting to-do list. Just take a look.

It is finalizing plans for a 200-acre campus for the Carolina Panthers in Rock Hill, S.C., which includes a $200 million private investment by Tepper and $160 million in incentives from South Carolina. It has to get an MLS team infrastructure — a brand, players, technical and business staff and corporate culture — in place over the next 12 months. It is negotiating for a new corporate headquarters and office space for the MLS team in the eastern part of Charlotte, where it hopes to have shovels in the ground by summer. It is working with the city of Charlotte to develop land connecting Bank of America Stadium to the city’s uptown core. It is undergoing a  renovation of its home stadium to retrofit it for soccer’s launch next spring, all while opening up the building to concert promoters for the first time.

It is revamping the Panthers’ football operations, led by new coach Matt Rhule, as the team continues to add talent to the entire front office. All of this comes without Tepper making any additional investments, like esports. Tepper is moving freight-train-fast in a rapidly changing Southern city built on relationships. He refuses to sit still, and overall, his efforts have been well received. But he must balance his zeal for speed while recognizing that he’s the richest owner in the NFL seeking taxpayer funds for some of these projects, and understand that the “Old Charlotte” way of doing business has traditionally meant decision-making in the hands of a few powerful individuals.

PALACE INTRIGUE: Please read the fantastic oral history on the legacy of the Palace of Auburn Hills in this week’s issue. It was a great pitch from the principals and they provided candid storytelling on the development of this trendsetting building. As I read the piece, I kept thinking how much David Stern would have enjoyed it, and then I came across this quote from former Pistons President Tom Wilson that referenced the late commissioner’s first impression of the arena in 1988. “David Stern was so blown away by it. He addressed the NBA board of governors and said, ‘You’ve got one job this year. You’ve got to get to Detroit. You’ve got to see this building. We’re not just in the basketball business anymore. We’re in the entertainment business, we’re in the real estate business. We’re in the development business, and we’re in the basketball business. But our whole game is changing based on what you’ll see there.’” That quote presciently spoke to Stern’s view of the rapidly changing sports business. The entire oral history is a great read.

New Voices Under 30 panel

Jessica Berman, NLL 

JoAnn Neale, MLS

Dan Reed, Facebook

Russell Silvers, AEG

Justin Toman, Pepsi

Joe Favorito, independent PR rep

John Abbamondi, MSG

Lisa Murray, Octagon

Brian Kantarian, JPMorgan Chase 

Michael Melnitzky, Allen & Co. 

Len Perna, Turnkey Search

Nick Kelly, A-B InBev

RAISED VOICES: We recognize the inaugural class of our New Voices Under 30 in this issue. The program was launched over the summer with our founding partners, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Turnkey Search, and we received more than 200 submissions. We then recruited a group of industry judges (see box) who met in New York City for an afternoon of discussion and we eventually finalized the group of 30. All 30 attended our inaugural New Voices Under 30 party on Dec. 12 at the Refinery Rooftop and it was one of the most enjoyable evenings of the year. Special thanks to Len Perna from Turnkey Search and Nick Kelly of Anheuser-Busch InBev for their support, and to SBJ’s Betty Gomes and Tracey Allsbrook for all their hard work on this section and overall program. It’s received tremendous feedback and we’re excited about its future potential. Look for details about next year’s program in the months ahead.


First Look podcast, with sports business stories Abe is watching, at the 26:15 mark:

First Look "New Voices Under 30" podcast:

Abraham Madkour can be reached at