Although Tepper is a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he still has to be vetted by the NFL as part of this process, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to the Observer. Next week during the NFL meetings in Atlanta, Tepper is expected to appear in person before the league's finance committee, a group of eight that will review details of the proposed deal.
The committee will provide a recommendation to the rest of the NFL owners, who will then vote on the deal. Tepper is expected to be approved. The Panthers said in a statement that the deal is expected to close in July.
Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, 81, announced plans in December to sell the team on the same day Sports Illustrated reported on allegations of workplace misconduct by Richardson. The team then hired New York investment bank Allen & Co. to line up bids and help the Panthers pick a winner.
Tepper is buying the team for $2.275 billion, $2.2 billion of which will be in cash up front, a source close to the matter told the Observer on Wednesday. Tepper can opt to bring in minority partners, who will need to be league approved, at a later date if he chooses to.
Any new minority partners have be approved by a vote of the full membership of NFL owners, McCarthy said, and that could happen after a deal closes. In fact, that could happen at any time in the years to come if Tepper decides to bring a new partner on.
Once the deal closes, the proceeds of the sale will be split among the Richardson family, which owns 48 percent of the team, and the team's minority partners, which own 52 percent.
These partners, comprising a who's who of the Charlotte business elite, made the initial investment that brought an NFL franchise to the Carolinas and are now reaping the benefit. Richardson has said he and the other owners put in about $220 million to start the team, including a $140 million NFL franchise fee.
The minority partners with the biggest stakes are Rocky Mount businessmen and brothers Jerry and Steve Wordsworth (17.1 percent) and Family Dollar Stores founder Leon Levine (10.4 percent), according to numbers that were leaked to Deadspin.com in 2012. Other investors include members of the Close, Harris and Belk families.
Tepper has not said whether he will add any minority owners — he does not need any to afford the team.
But it is possible some current partners could seek to stay on as investors, a move that could potentially help with impending tax bills from the sale. The Observer could not reach any of the minority investors on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt University sports economist John Vrooman said Tepper could benefit from taking on partners.
"He will probably strike a balance between new and old money to achieve .... continuity in a closed league with a younger fan base and rapidly aging ownership," Vrooman said in an email.
A number of other key details remain to be determined about Tepper's ownership takeover, including personnel changes, eventual stadium upgrades and his relationship with the community.
In terms of visibility, Vrooman expects Tepper to stand in stark contrast to Richardson, who hasn't held a press conference in over seven years.