Canadian steel company CEO is latest potential Carolina Panthers bidder

Canadian steel company CEO is latest potential Carolina Panthers bidder
Carolina Panthers enter Bank of America Stadium on Aug. 4, 2017 at Carolina Panthers Fan Fest. The name of a steel and mining industry executive has emerged as the latest potential bidder for the team. (Jeff Siner | The Charlotte Observer)

Multiple sources have told the Observer that a steel and mining industry executive has surfaced as the latest potential bidder for the Carolina Panthers.

Alan Kestenbaum is the chairman and CEO of the private equity firm Bedrock Industries LP, which in June bought a 107-year-old Canadian steel company now called Stelco Holdings.

The sources spoke with the Observer spoke on the condition of anonymity because the bidding process is confidential. Kestenbaum could not be reached for comment.

Kestenbaum becomes the latest potential bidder to emerge since Panthers owner Jerry Richardson disclosed plans in December to sell the franchise he brought to the Carolinas in the mid 1990s. The sale announcement came on the day Sports Illustrated published a report alleging workplace sexual and racial misconduct by Richardson.

So far, the three other likely bidders that have surfaced are Charleston businessman Ben Navarro, Philadelphia e-commerce innovator Michael Rubin and Miami hedge fund manager David Tepper. Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates has spearheaded a potential local ownership group, but a source said he might look at partnering with another bidder. It's not clear if any others will enter the race.

According to a bio on his company website, Kestenbaum has "extensive investing and operating experience in the natural resources sectors as well as a successful track record in turnarounds and restructurings." He is the past founder of a company called Globe Specialty Metals Inc. and former chairman of Ferroglobe PLC. In early 2015, Globe agreed to merge with a Spanish company called Grupo FerroAtlantica for $3.1 billion.

Bedrock is based in Miami and public records show that Kestenbaum owns beachfront condominiums in Dade County, Fla.

A Bloomberg News story in December described him as a 55-year-old Brooklyn-born turnaround artist who sees promise in a steel company that has struggled with losses, gone through bankruptcy protection twice and endured thorny labor relations. After completing an initial public stock offering in November, Stelco will use part of the $181 million in IPO proceeds to boost capacity at steel mills and to pursue possible acquisitions, according to a Reuters story.

"Many companies and owners today have broken balance sheets, are forced asset sellers and have operational issues. We talk to everybody," Kestenbaum told Reuters. Bedrock controls 85 percent of Stelco, he told Business News Network last year.

The Panthers in January hired New York investment bank Allen & Co. to help the team solicit bidders and narrow down the choices. Sources have told the Observer that a winning bid could be selected by the team as early as the end of this month or early next month. That scenario would mean NFL team owners would vote to approve the sale during their May 21-23 meetings in Atlanta.

Forbes has estimated the Panthers are worth $2.3 billion, but it's unclear what the final sales price will be.