With the Carolina Panthers’ loss Sunday night to the New Orleans Saints, the NFL team Jerry Richardson brought to the Carolinas can officially go up for sale.
Offers could soon start flowing in from potential ownership groups. The potentially $2 billion-plus sale could be approved before training camp begins in July, if past team sales are any indication of a timeline.
The announcement last month of the Panthers’ sale followed a Sports Illustrated report that alleged years of workplace misconduct by Richardson, the team’s 81-year-old majority owner. The team had said offers would not be entertained until the last game was played.
In Charlotte, speculation will mount about who will be the new owners, whether they will decide to build a new stadium here and if they will keep the team in the city.
“It’ll be aggressive,” said Todd McFall a Wake Forest sports economist, of the bidding process.
“There are people who have had enough time to put together preliminary plans, I presume, and there will be people waiting at the gates to present their idea about what to do with the team to the NFL. And also, how much they’ll be willing to fork over to get their hands on that team.”
For now, a few things are certain.
The team of legal and financial experts handling the sale will begin to meet with prospective ownership groups over the coming weeks. In charge of the legal side of the deal are Joe Leccese, New York-based chairman of Proskauer Rose LLP, and Billy Moore, a Charlotte-based attorney with Moore & Van Allen.
The banker leading the sale is Steve Greenberg of the New York investment bank Allen & Company LLC., the firm that also represented the Pegula family when they bought the Buffalo Bills in 2014.
The Bills were the last NFL team to change hands. After longtime owner Ralph Wilson died in March 2014, the team went up for sale. During the five-month process, Bills fans waited eagerly to see if their team would remain in Buffalo.
They boycotted the music of Bon Jovi after news broke that singer Jon Bon Jovi was leading a bidding group that included two Canadian businessmen who intended to relocate the team to Toronto, according to multiple media reports at the time. Donald Trump also tried to buy the team.
The sale to Terry and Kim Pegula, also owners of the Buffalo Sabres, was approved by a three-quarters majority of NFL owners in early October 2014.
Speculation has already started over who could buy the Panthers. Rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs was one of the first to express interest, garnering support from NBA star Steph Curry and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates and some of the team’s current minority owners are part of a local group putting together a bid. Sabates has said a new stadium is necessary to make a bid worthwhile.
According to Forbes, the Panthers have a net worth of $2.3 billion, but experts have said the team could go for as much as $2.5 billion to $2.8 billion. The Pegulas paid $1.4 billion for the Bills, a record amount for an NFL team.
In a visit to Charlotte Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper called the Panthers “critical to the Charlotte area and North Carolina’s economy.” Cooper also said he has begun consulting local civic and business leaders about ways the state can help keep the Panthers here.