The Carolina Panthers will soon officially have a new owner. Hedge fund billionaire David Tepper is said to be signing a deal Tuesday to buy the team, according to reports by ESPN, NFL.com and The Charlotte Observer.
Tepper will pay $2.2 billion in cash for the team, the highest price for a franchise in the history of the NFL.
That will mean a hefty return for current Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and his limited partners. Richardson paid $206 million in 1993 for the rights to the team.
But the final price tag is a whole lot less than originally expected. Some reports had put the potential number as high as $3 billion.
Richardson announced in December that he would sell the team, just hours after a bombshell Sports Illustrated report detailed claims of sexual harassment.
Who is David Tepper?
David Tepper is the 60-year-old founder of Miami Beach hedge fund Appaloosa Management. His company manages some $17 billion and Tepper’s personal net worth is $11 billion, according to Forbes. The business magazine calls Tepper “arguably the greatest hedge fund manager of his generation.”
Tepper has no real background with Charlotte, other than making a killing during the financial crisis in part by buying Bank of America shares at $3. At the time, he also became known for keeping a pair of brass testicles on his desk emblazoned with the words “the most valuable set of all time.”
He’s also known for being, shall we say, outspoken. From a 2010 profile in New York magazine:
“Sometimes,” he whispers, leaning across the table, “if someone is an asshole, like a waiter at a restaurant, I think, I could just buy this place and fire that guy.”
Tepper has long been interested in owning an NFL franchise. He bought 5 percent of the Pittsburgh Steelers, his hometown team, in 2009. In the deal, his background was vetted by the NFL.
So is the team moving?
Probably not. While Tepper is not tied to Charlotte and will likely use that as leverage to extract public money from the city, most experts don’t believe the team is a good candidate for moving. Tepper has been pretty mum about what he’ll ask for, but speculation is that he could look for a new taxpayer-funded stadium.
The NFL Network reported that Tepper wants to keep the team in town.
“I have to tell you, for me, I like the people down there. They remind me of my original hometown, Pittsburgh,” Tepper said to The Charlotte Observer in April.
What happens next?
The sale must first be approved by a majority of NFL team owners. That vote will likely occur next week.