Carolina Panthers

Despite report, hedge fund billionaire says he's still bidding to buy Panthers

Billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper says he is still in the bidding process to buy the Carolina Panthers.

"I have to tell you, for me, I like the people down there. They remind me of my original hometown, Pittsburgh. The only thing I’m telling you is I haven’t dropped out," Tepper said in a call with the Observer Monday afternoon. "We’ll see what tomorrow brings."

His comments came after the The New York Times reported Monday that Tepper, a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, dropped out, citing sources familiar with the matter. Fanatics owner Michael Rubin has also dropped out of the process, the Times reported.

Tepper is one of four bidders who have emerged since Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced plans to sell the team in December. Tepper joins steel company CEO Alan Kestenbaum, Charleston financier Ben Navarro and Rubin.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that Rubin had dropped out after bids had reached $2.5 billion, but a source told the Observer he remained interested at the right price. Bloomberg has also reported that Cary billionaire Jim Goodnight has expressed interest.

Kestenbaum, Navarro and Tepper have made visits to Charlotte in recent weeks. Last month, NFL owners gathered at meetings in Orlando said they expected a bidder to be presented for approval by the league's next round of meetings May 21-23 in Atlanta.

New York investment bank Allen & Co. is handling the sale for the Panthers. Richardson put the team up for sale on the day Sports Illustrated published a story outlining allegations of workplace misconduct by Richardson.

Navarro is reported to have bid $2.6 billion for the team, The Times reported, citing several people familiar with the process.

Earlier on Monday, Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates, who has been working for months to pull together a local group to potentially buy the Carolina Panthers, said he now won't be involved with any bids.

"I have decided to withdraw from any potential investment," Sabates, 72, told the Observer. "The price has become higher than I consider to be prudent. If any owner wants help, I will help them."

The Observer reported last month that Sabates, a long-time fixture on the Charlotte sports scene, was looking to partner with another bidder, rather than assemble his own group.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta
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