Source: Tepper expected to sign Panthers sale

Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner David Tepper is expected to sign the deal Tuesday to buy the Panthers and keep them in Carolina, a league source told ESPN’s Seth Wickersham and Adam Schefter.

The deal would be expected to be approved at the owners meetings in Atlanta on May 22. The purchase needs to get approval from the NFL financial committee and then three-fourths approval from the 32 owners.

Because Tepper, 60, is a minority owner of the Steelers, he has already passed the league’s vetting process. He currently owns 5 percent of the Steelers and would have to sell that interest before completing the Panthers’ purchase.

Tepper, the founder of the global hedge fund firm Appaloosa Management who has a net worth of $11 billion according to Forbes, is committed to keeping the team in Charlotte.

The Panthers were put up for sale after the 2017 season following sexual harassment and workplace misconduct allegations against owner Jerry Richardson that were published by Sports Illustrated in December.

On Dec. 17, Sports Illustrated published a report alleging that Richardson sexually harassed multiple women and used a racial slur toward a team scout. The SI report said the Panthers had reached settlements with at least four former employees regarding inappropriate workplace behavior by Richardson.

Richardson, 81, allegedly made verbal comments about women’s appearances, inappropriately touched female employees and made advances to women that included asking whether he could shave their legs and for them to give him foot rubs.

Along with the allegation of using a racial slur that led to a settlement with the former scout, SI noted comments made by Richardson about black players’ appearances and his threat to discipline players who addressed social issues.

On the evening of Dec. 17, Richardson announced in a public letter that he would sell the team after the season.

Under league rules, Tepper must put up at least 30 percent of the selling price. Forbes placed the value of the Panthers at $2.3 billion in September 2017. Anything over the $2.2 billion that the NBA’s Houston Rockets sold for in 2017 would be a record for a sports franchise in the United States.

The Buffalo Bills, which sold for $1.4 billion in 2014, hold the current record for an NFL team.

The Panthers hired Steve Greenberg of New York investment bank Allen & Co. to help with the sale. The banking and legal team have worked to sell the LA Clippers, Washington Wizards, St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Nets and other big-name sports franchises in recent years.

Tepper arguably is one of the greatest hedge fund managers of this generation. He also has a strong philanthropy résumé, particularly in areas where he has lived. He donated $3 million over the year to help with hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and Texas.

When Hurricane Sandy devastated the New Jersey coast in 2012, Tepper gave out 12,000 $100 gift cards to people in need in 20 different communities.

Tepper grew up in a lower- to middle-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh and received a degree in economics from University of Pittsburgh. Early in his career, he worked as a credit analyst at Goldman Sachs.

Ben Navarro, the founder of Charleston, South Carolina-based Sherman Financial Group LLC, was considered with Tepper to be the top candidates to get Richardson’s recommendation. Fanatics owner Michael Rubin and CEO and chairman of Bedrock Industries LP Alan Kestenbaum were also reported to be interested in becoming primary owners of the franchise.

Tepper emerged as the early leader, although Navarro at one point appeared to take the lead. Because Richardson wanted to complete the sale as fast as possible, according to multiple sources, and there were questions about whether owners would approve Navarro immediately, Tepper became the top choice.

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