Hedge fund manager emerging as likely buyer of the Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC (Rick Rothacker, Katherine Peralta, and Joseph Person/Charlotte Observer) - Signs are pointing to hedge fund manager David Tepper as the winning bidder to buy the Carolina Panthers, sources told the Observer on Friday.

CBS and ESPN separately reported on Friday that Tepper is the leading candidate, and that the announcement could come as early as next week. A source also told the Observer that an announcement could come as early as next week.

Tepper, 60, is the richest of the known bidders who sought to buy the Panthers, with a net worth of $11 billion, according to Forbes. He's also the only one already vetted by the NFL, as a part-owner of his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One of the sources told the Observer that Tepper's bid was helped because he had the least complex finances and didn't have a need for minority partners. The source also cautioned that a deal did not appear to be finalized.

Tepper visited Charlotte once in early April, and was in town again Wednesday meeting with team officials, ESPN reported.

Tepper is one of four bidders who have emerged since Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced plans to sell the team in December. Tepper joins steel company CEO Alan Kestenbaum, Charleston financier Ben Navarro and Fanatics owner Michael Rubin.

Richardson announced plans to sell the team on the day Sports Illustrated reported allegations of workplace misconduct by Richardson.

Navarro, once considered the favorite to buy the team, reportedly reached out to two-time Super Bowl winner Peyton Manning about joining his ownership group that is bidding on the Panthers. In late April, Richardson's son, Mark, threw his weight behind Navarro.