Richardson is selling the team he founded to Tepper, a hedge fund billionaire, for $2.2 billion. Tepper likely will be more visible and accessible than Richardson, who put the team on the market amid an NFL investigation for alleged sexual and racial workplace misconduct.
Richardson hasn’t granted interviews in more than five years. Tepper, who grew up in Pittsburgh, recently called two news organizations that reported he was out of the running for the Panthers to tell them they were wrong.
Tepper is not afraid to make bold decisions like the ones he’s made with Appaloosa Management L.P., which has his net worth at $11 billion, according to Forbes. But he likes to portray the image of the man on the street, once telling a reporter, “I was never afraid to go back to Pittsburgh and work in the steel mills.”
He was chosen by Richardson because as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers Tepper already has passed the NFL’s vetting process. Richardson, according to sources, wanted to complete the sale as soon as possible with the allegations hanging over him, and Tepper had the easiest path to complete the transaction.
The most recent Sports Illustrated story, in which one of the women whom Richardson allegedly harassed called the NFL’s investigation a farce and detailed some of what she said Richardson did to her, made Richardson even more eager to complete the sale.
Barring a hiccup, Tepper will get the three-fourths approval from the 32 owners at the May 21-23 meetings in Atlanta and take over immediately.
Here’s more about what you need to know about the transition:
Will Tepper keep the team in Charlotte, North Carolina?
He says there are no plans to move the team, and there’s no reason to doubt him. Also, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league wants the team to stay in the Queen City. You can bet Richardson wouldn’t turn the team over to Tepper if there was any concern he might move it. Richardson’s goal when he founded the team in 1993 was to make it a team of the Carolinas. This is a strong market for the league, and the stadium recently has undergone about $87 million in upgrades. Perhaps Tepper will build a new stadium in the next 5-10 years, but it will be in Charlotte unless something drastically changes.
Will the new owner have any say in the 53-man roster for this upcoming season?
Tepper loves sports. It’s why he bought 5 percent of the Steelers. It’s why Appaloosa’s offices have the feel of a sports bar. But he’s a smart businessman and doesn’t appear interested in being an owner like Dallas’ Jerry Jones, who has a say in all personnel decisions.
What influence will the new owner have on coach Ron Rivera, general manager Marty Hurney, quarterback Cam Newton and others?
Rivera has been the NFL Coach of the Year twice since being hired in 2011, and the team has made the playoffs four of the past five seasons — including a trip to the Super Bowl following the 2015 season. He and Hurney are a big part of the culture of the locker room, as is Newton. Tepper has a reputation for hiring good people and letting them do their job. Rivera and Hurney are locked up contractually through 2020, so there’s no reason to think Tepper will come in and make changes there unless Carolina goes on a skid the next couple of seasons.
Will there be any changes to the front office?
Richardson named Tina Becker the COO when he stepped away from the day-to-day operations. She’s kept a low profile and tried to create a work environment that alleviates the concerns that have come up in the allegations against her boss. However, Tepper already has relationships with people he trusts, so it wouldn’t surprise if he made changes on the business side of the franchise and found a new home for Becker or replaced her and others. If he feels comfortable calling out President of the United States Donald Trump it wouldn’t surprise if he cleaned house to totally get away from the mystique of the man called “Mister” by his employees.
Will Tepper keep the huge statute of Richardson outside the stadium?
He might not make a decision immediately, but repairing the image of the franchise and moving past the allegations against Richardson has to be a priority, so it wouldn’t surprise if he found a less prominent location for the statue.
What happens to Richardson?
The latest SI story that placed a more human touch on the allegations has put the league in a position where it likely has to respond with some action. The issue is what would those actions be? You can fine Richardson a hefty amount, but he just made $2.2 billion on the sale, so a fine won’t hurt him financially. Perhaps the league could take draft choices away, but that is punishing the organization and not the man being investigated. Because of the confidentiality agreement Richardson and those he settled with signed, it seems unlikely we’ll hear anything from Richardson, who is expected to retire to his South Charlotte office and home.
What about the ongoing NFL investigation?
It likely will be wrapped up soon since the findings no longer will hurt the sale of the team.
What happens with charities the Richardsons/Panthers were donating to?
Tepper has his own charities and causes, so expect him to continue with them and to look into more local issues he can become involved with. He’s a major philanthropist, championing education and meeting people’s needs across the United States. He supports major charities worldwide, including UNICEF, Feeding America and the American Cancer Society. Tepper gave away slightly less than $1.2 million worth gift cards (nearly 12,0000 cards) to victims of Hurricane Sandy.