Tom Sorensen

What makes new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper, Charlotte such a good fit

I’ve yet to meet David Tepper, the new owner of the Carolina Panthers. But I like the guy. He strikes me as genuine.

He delivered the commencement address last week at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, where he went to graduate school. He told students about his abusive father, and how he prayed that he would never abuse his kids. Tepper says that he broke the cycle.

He wasn’t seeking sympathy. He was talking about the influences that shaped him as a father and as a man. That’s genuine.

That quality will serve him well. Tepper is Charlotte’s most talked about billionaire. He should get a crown or something. I’m tired of reading about his money. But money also has shaped him. It enabled him to buy the Panthers.

The team’s minority owners gathered Monday night. Tepper doesn’t need their money. But does he require their expertise?

Every city has a personality, and we’ve had owners that chose not to learn ours. Those owners were Bob Johnson, the first owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, and Ray Wooldridge, a former part-owner (with George Shinn) of the Charlotte Hornets. They expected Charlotte to adjust to them.

Look. My idea of a major business transaction is ordering takeout. But I know who we are.

I’ve spent time with leaders such as Hugh McColl, the former chairman and CEO of Bank of America; Rolph Neill, the former publisher of the Charlotte Observer and Felix Sabates, the businessman that has been so integral to Charlotte sports.

Through osmosis, if nothing else, I learned.

We are nice, Charlotte is. We’re courteous. We believe in our city, and we’d like you to believe in it, too.

But being nice is not the same as being soft. We don’t like bullies. We don’t like arrogance. We don’t like pretense. And we don’t like lies. Turn on us, and we’ll remember.

To learn the city, become part of it. Eat at our restaurants, drink at our bars (drink sparkling water if you want) and shake our hands. But our power is not concentrated. You can’t shake a few hands and say, “Ah, I’ve been taken to their leaders.”

We have multiple leaders, often but not always longtimers. A quality I associate with them is philanthropy. Three of Tepper’s players, linebacker Thomas Davis, tight end Greg Olsen and quarterback Cam Newton, lead foundations to which they devote their money and time. So does one of Carolina’s former players, a player that still lives in the area, Steve Smith Sr.

I know about your philanthropy, David Tepper. You’ll fit beautifully.

So: Despite the constant construction, Charlotte isn’t loud.

We’re fortunate, and we’re aware that we’re fortunate, but we don’t have to scream it.

Charlotte is, I think, a fine, fine place to live.

I have no idea how much time Tepper will spend here. But I hope he digs in, and I hope he likes it, too.

I almost never claim to speak for Charlotte, but in this case, I do.

We look forward to meeting you.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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