Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith said Tuesday in a radio interview that he’d be willing to buy the Carolina Panthers from owner Jerry Richardson – and Smith said he wouldn’t make city or state taxpayers pay for improvements at Bank of America Stadium.
Smith’s comments came near the end of an interview with WBT-AM morning talk show host Keith Larson.
Larson said the interview was prompted by remarks he’d made Monday, in which he referred to Smith’s threat several years ago to move Charlotte Motor Speedway out of Concord in a dispute with local officials over his plans to build a drag raceway there.
Smith finally got approval to build zMAX Dragway.
Larson had expressed skepticism on air Monday about whether Smith really would have followed through with his threat, and Smith said Tuesday in the interview: “My intent was to relocate the speedway.”
Larson’s comments had come in light of negotiations between Richardson and officials from both the city of Charlotte and the state, over Richardson’s plans to make nearly $300 million worth of improvements at the stadium. The Panthers’ owner wants local and state money to pay for a chunk of the project.
One background factor in the negotiations has been the possibility that the team could be sold to out-of-town ownership – and possibly moved – after Richardson’s death.
Near the end of their interview, Larson asked Smith if he would be interested in buying the team. The speedway owner answered: “Well, it depends. Do you think he is interested in selling?
“If the price is right, I’d be interested.”
Then, apparently in a reference to a deal between Richardson and city officials that calls for a guarantee that the Panthers will remain in Charlotte at least 15 years, Smith said, “I would commit to the city – and I would not ask for money.”
When Larson asked him to repeat what he’d said, Smith replied: “I would not ask for money.”
For the record, Smith said there have been no talks between him and the Panthers.
“I have not approached him,” Smith said of Richardson.
A spokesman for Speedway Motorsports told the Observer later that Smith was tied up in meetings Tuesday afternoon and evening and was not available for comment.