Questions surround future ownership of Panthers and impact on Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers are in Charlotte and have thrived because of Jerry Richardson, but soon, that responsibility will rest in someone else's hand.

"I think we are in a really good driver seat for whoever takes over the ownership of this team," said Charlotte Councilman Tariq Bokhari. "What city is better from a 10-15 trajectory than Charlotte?"

Richardson announced the sale of the team at the end of this NFL season and on Monday the team announced Richardson would be stepping aside from his day-to-day involvement.

Now questions and concerns swirl around who the next owner(s) will be and what that means for the city of Charlotte.

"The reason we made that 87.5 million-dollar investment is because we knew the importance of the Panthers," said Councilwoman Lawana Mayfield. "If we have outside investors that understand the value of our beautiful city, then I think it would be a benefit. The goal is to keep the Carolina Panthers here."

Many names have been thrown around as potential buyers of the team. Forbes listed Bruton Smith, the Levine family, the Belk family, and Michael Jordan as potential buyers. On Sunday, P. Diddy and Stephen Curry tweeted interest in owning the team.

"I think personally, the ideal ownership scenario would be a group of our great leaders here that have that kind of money. Johnny Harris, the Levines, coming together and buying that 48%, that is our best chance to not have a discussion about even relocating the team," said Bokhari.

City leaders feel regardless of who takes over the ownership, the team will remain in Charlotte.

"It is a competitive process and this is one where we will have to, like any relationship, invest and work on it," said Michael Smith with Charlotte Center City Partners. "There are points of life that define a city and the sale of our franchise will be one."

The team is tethered to the city through the 2018-2019 season. After that, if the team leaves, the city has protection to recoup some of the money that they invested on things like stadium upgrades.

"We do have some protections in place for the investment that we as the city council and taxpayer dollars have invested into the city and that stadium," said Mayfield.

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