Mixed reports of second bidder dropping out hours after Felix Sabates pulls out of Carolina Panthers bidding process

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Hours after Charlotte business owner Felix Sabates confirmed he was pulling out of the bidding for the Carolina Panthers, there are mixed reports of a second bidder pulling out.

"Yes I am pulling out because the price is getting way too high and it will not see a return on investment for at least 20 years," Sabates told WBTV Monday. "And at my age that is not a prudent investment."

Sabates was working for months to pull together a local group to potentially buy the team. He first expressed interest in pursuing a bid in December, shortly after owner Jerry Richardson announced he planned to sell the team. Richardson made the announcement amid allegations of workplace misconduct.

Other potential bidders initially included Canadian steel company CEO Alan Kestenbaum, Charleston businessman Ben Navarro, e-commerce innovator Michael Rubin and Miami hedge fund manager David Tepper.

According to the New York Times on Monday, Tepper appeared to be out of the running as well. But WBTV's news partner The Charlotte Observer reported that Tepper was still in.

"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."

According to the Times, Tepper was pointed to by many NFL owners as the preferred choice to buy the team but backed out of the auction for the team. The paper sourced two people with knowledge of his interest in the team.

RELATED: Potential new bidder for Panthers is wealthy SC businessman, sources say

Kestenbaum and Navarro visited Charlotte recently after making a bid on the team. Bloomberg reported that Rubin's group had dropped out of the bidding process due to the price escalation, but his spokesman reportedly declined to comment.

Other names that have been linked to the sale of the team include celebrities and athletes such as Diddy, Colin Kaepernick and Steph Curry.

RELATED: Report: Carolina Panthers price tag reaches record-setting amount

"If any owner wants help, I will help them," Sabates told the Charlotte Observer.

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. A new owner has to be approved by 24 of 32 NFL owners.

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