Carolina Panthers

Familiarity a key when Panthers owner Jerry Richardson chooses next team president

Jerry Richardson’s familiarity with Danny Morrison (right) played a key role in his hiring as team president, and familiarity could play a big role in hiring Morrison’s replacement.
Jerry Richardson’s familiarity with Danny Morrison (right) played a key role in his hiring as team president, and familiarity could play a big role in hiring Morrison’s replacement. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

It has been five days since Carolina Panthers president Danny Morrison’s abrupt resignation, and the team has yet to say anything about what direction it will go to look for Morrison’s replacement.

But based on conversations with sources and industry insiders – and given the background of the two most recent team presidents – Panthers owner Jerry Richardson likely will look for someone he knows well and is comfortable with.

That person is not expected to be his son, Mark, who was fired from the position two weeks before the start of the 2009 season.

Mark and his sister, Ashley Richardson Allen, are a still a part of the Panthers’ ownership group. But none of Richardson’s children have been involved in the day-to-day operations of the club since Mark and his brother, Jon, were fired in 2009. Jon Richardson died in 2013 following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Jerry Richardson, 80, wants the Panthers to be sold within two years of his death – a development that was revealed in 2013 when the team was seeking $125 million in public money for renovations to Bank of America Stadium. (The Panthers ended up receiving $87.5 million in public funds.)

An industry source said the franchise’s next ownership group would not want to be saddled with having to buy out the remaining contract years of the team president.

A known quantity

Morrison, 63, spearheaded those discussions with city officials and led the stadium renovation efforts. Morrison and Richardson are both former Wofford athletes, and the two met when Morrison was on the Terriers’ basketball team in the 1970s.

Morrison was Wofford’s athletics director when Richardson was awarded an NFL franchise in 1993, and was instrumental in upgrading the Terriers’ facilities to host the Panthers’ training camp.

Morrison ran the business side of the organization after succeeding Mark Richardson in 2009. Morrison was not involved in football decisions, although he did accompany former general manager Marty Hurney when Hurney interviewed head-coaching candidates before Ron Rivera was hired in 2011.

Finding someone Jerry Richardson is familiar with does not necessarily mean that person will come from within the organization. It could be, as in Morrison’s case, someone who has worked closely with Richardson.

If the duties of the next team president remain the same, the position would seem to favor someone with a strong business background.

Panthers ticketing and sponsorship director Phil Youtsey, one of the team’s longest-tenured employees, could be among a number of internal candidates that Richardson could consider.

Youtsey has been with the team since its inception. He served as the ticket director until two years ago, when he moved into his current role as the de facto revenue director.

A darkhorse candidate

One darkhorse candidate to keep an eye on is Hurney, the former GM who remains in Charlotte as co-operator of ESPN 730 AM.

Hurney was “relieved of his duties” – the wording from the Panthers’ press release – in October 2012 after Carolina got off to another slow start.

But it was more of a mutual parting of ways between Richardson and Hurney, who did not want the axe to fall on Rivera. Richardson maintains a high level of respect for Hurney, who was in charge of managing the team’s salary cap before becoming GM.

But the idea of bringing Hurney back is likely a long shot, considering the potential for awkwardness of having the current GM and the former one under the same roof.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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