Carolina Panthers 'officially' up for sale after loss to Saints

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A new era will soon start for the Carolina Panthers.

Majority owner Jerry Richardson is selling his stake and bids will start coming in.

WBTV has learned the asking price for Richardson's share is $3 billion.

The firm handling the sale told WBTV they're not doing any interviews. In fact, not many people are speaking publicly.

Charlotte city officials say they're monitoring the situation.

"Some of the things we have heard it could be up to potential six different owners looking at being part of ownership. We think the schedule will take place after the Super Bowl is over," said Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell.

When Richardson announced he was selling, he said bids wouldn't be accepted until after the team's last game.

The NFL is the midst of its post season run-up to the Super Bowl. The league may not want any distractions to over shadow the Super Bowl.

Will the process of selling the team be delayed?

"That's what we keep hearing - that this process will not take place or pick up steam until after Super Bowl, which is February 4th," Council member Mitchell said.

Mitchell says city leaders don't have a say in anything related to the sale so they don't know who has submitted bids.

One thing is clear: the majority ownership will fetch a hefty price tag.

"Not hearing the exact amount but what we're hearing is north of 2.3 billion," Mitchell said. "I think for us we would want to find an owner that wants to keep the team here."

After Sunday's tough loss to the New Orleans Saints, Richardson addressed the team for the final time as the Carolina Panthers are officially up for sale.

"It's not how we wanted the season to end for him, and unfortunately for us it's...we'll miss having him around," linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "He helped a lot of guys in this locker room get where they are. He's done great job for the city and if you talk to anybody in this locker room they'd appreciate what he's done for us and we owe a lot to him and unfortunately for us it didn't go how we wanted it to to end for him, but you know that's just how it goes sometimes."

"We all feel the same way about him. He's done a lot like Luke said for every man in this locker room and for us not to come through today...it definitely hurts, linebacker Thomas Davis said.

"I have a really good relationship with Jerry Richardson. You know as far as a whole team outlook, you know the fact as our season cut short right now that's kind of hard for us to believe," quarterback Cam Newton said.

There's going to be a lot of questions in the days ahead. Who's going to buy the Carolina Panthers? What becomes of the front office?

For a region that sees income tax that players pay, job creation from the franchise, and spending at small businesses and restaurants near the stadium - 
Charlotte city officials say they've made a point to let the NFL know they want the team to stay in Charlotte. 
They say Panthers games sell out.

"For us, we value what the Panthers mean to this community. We value Mr. Richardson and the type of owner he's been," Mitchell said "And so anything we want to make sure we're clear – City Council and the Mayor saying we want the Panthers. We love the Panthers. The Panthers mean a lot to us in the City of Charlotte."

Executives with the National Football League (NFL) say specifics questions about the sale such as the timeline, price, potential bidders have to addressed by the Panthers, and those handling the sale.

A spokesperson for the NFL told WBTV that "All new owners (not just the controlling owner) must be approved through a ¾ affirmative vote of the 32 member NFL clubs. A new controlling owner is required to individually own at least 30% of the equity in a club. New owners typically own substantially more than that."

The NFL says "In many cases the controlling owner owns 100% of the club.  A new owner cannot exhaust his or her financial resources to make the bare minimum equity investment.  The controlling owner must be able to demonstrate the financial wherewithal to both acquire the ownership interests and effectively operate the team over the long term, including planning for potential capital needs. A club is also limited to a maximum of 25 individual owners.  Most clubs have many fewer than that.  Neither a public company nor a not-for-profit entity can own a club."

While several questions linger, one thing we do know is that coach Ron Rivera will be back after signing the contract extension.

The deal would also be the first move by Tina Becker as chief operating officer of the team. Becker was promoted to the position after Richardson stepped away from daily duties last month.

PREVIOUS: Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announces upcoming sale of team amid allegations

Sports Illustrated reported that at least four former Carolina Panthers employees have received "significant" monetary settlements as a result of inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by owner Richardson.

The conduct, Sports Illustrated reported, included "sexually suggestive language and behavior, and on at least one occasion directing a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout."

Previous: Panthers made pacts with 4 workers over inappropriate Richardson conduct, report says

SI said the settlements included non-disclosure agreements, forbidding the people involved from discussing the matter.

According to the Panthers, Becker has worked for the organization "and served in key roles along the way, including directing the organization's business and administrative priorities, as well as dealing with league affairs."

The move, officials say, will make Becker one of the highest-ranking female executives for any of the 32 teams in the National Football League.

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