Amid an investigation into allegations of his workplace misconduct and with the sale of his team apparently nearing a close, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will skip the NFL annual meetings next week in Orlando.
Chief operating officer Tina Becker will represent the Panthers on all voting matters and any other league business, a team spokesman said Wednesday.
Becker took over Richardson’s day-to-day duties in December. That transition came a day after Richardson announced he was selling the team. That announcement came on the same day of a Sports Illustrated report detailing financial settlements Richardson made to former employees over racial and sexual misconduct allegations.
Richardson, 81, has missed most of the owners meetings in recent years because of health issues. He did attend a spring quarterly meeting in Charlotte two years ago. While a source close to the process identified March as an “action month” in terms of the sale of the Panthers, owners are not expected to vote on the final bid next week at the meetings at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando.
That vote – which requires three-quarters approval by the owners – will likely take place at the quarterly meeting in May in Atlanta.
But a league source said owners will receive an update next week on the Panthers’ sale, which has drawn at least four known potential bidders – Pittsburgh Steelers minority partner David Tepper, Charleston businessman Ben Navarro, Philadelphia e-commerce innovator Michael Rubin and Alan Kestenbaum, CEO of a Canadian steel company. The Panthers hired New York investment bank Allen & Co. to help solicit bidders and narrow the field.
Forbes has pegged the Panthers’ worth at $2.3 billion, nearly $1 billion more than what the Buffalo Bills sold for in 2014. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also figures to be asked next week about where things stand with the league’s probe of Richardson, which is being led by independent investigator Mary Jo White.
The former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also led the NFL’s investigation of the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal and, more recently, consulted for the league during its investigation of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.