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Jon Richardson’s will calls for sale of his Panthers stake

Jon Richardson, who died in July and was son of Carolina Panthers majority owner Jerry Richardson, said in his will that he wanted his portion of the team sold after his death, according to documents filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court.

The Richardson family, led by majority owner Jerry Richardson, owns 47 percent of the partnership that owns the team and stadium, according to documents leaked to the website Deadspin last year. Jon Richardson’s share is around 7 percent of the family’s share, based on the leaked documents.

Jerome Johnson Richardson Jr., Jerry Richardson’s oldest son, died at age 53 after battling cancer for 13 years. He served as the president of what is now known as Bank of America Stadium from the team’s inception until his resignation in 2009.

Jon Richardson’s will, which he signed in 2006, provides no details on his stake in the team or why he wanted it sold. A Panthers spokesman declined to comment.

The sale of the stake would be a shift for a Panthers ownership group that has changed little since Jerry Richardson landed the franchise in 1993.

The team’s ownership gained renewed attention last year when the city of Charlotte agreed to contribute $87.5 million toward a $125 million planned stadium renovation. The team outlined the first phase of its plans on Tuesday.

During negotiations, the team told the city the franchise would be sold within two years of Jerry Richardson’s death because of tax implications. In return for the city’s financial commitment, the team agreed to be “tethered” to Charlotte for as long as 10 years.

Richardson is 77 and had a heart transplant in 2009. This season, his team has made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and is set to play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

The Panthers franchise has a complex ownership structure, according to the documents leaked to Deadspin.

An entity called Panthers GP LLC owns the Richardson family’s 47 percent stake in the team. Of that entity, Jerry Richardson owns 64 percent, and his wife, Rosalind, and three children, including Jon, each hold 6.6 percent. The remaining 10 percent of Panthers GP is held by an entity called PFF Inc., of which Jerry Richardson owns 71 percent and his wife and three children each hold 7.3 percent.

An inventory of Jon Richardson’s estate filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in November says PFF has not been valued yet. It does not mention Panthers GP.

It wouldn’t be the first time a Panthers owner sold off an ownership interest.

The ownership group bought back a 1.28 percent interest held by one of its shareholders in October 2010, according to the Deadspin documents. The unidentified owner received $7.5 million for the partial redemption.

In addition to the Richardsons, the Panthers are owned by 12 minority owners representing a who’s who of Charlotte business elites, including Family Dollar stores founder and philanthropist Leon Levine, members of the Belk department store family, former University of North Carolina system president Erskine Bowles and Charlotte businessmen Johnny and Cameron Harris.

About 900 people attended Jon Richardson’s funeral at Forest Hill Church in July, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a number of team owners and dozens of former and current Panthers players, coaches and executives.

Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Rothacker: 704-358-5170; Twitter: @rickrothacker
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