David Tepper's $2.275 billion deal to buy the Carolina Panthers is expected to close in the next two weeks, drawing to an end the era of team founder Jerry Richardson. The sale itself is expected to close without much fanfare, but the change of ownership marks a major change in the history of the franchise.
The next chapter for the Panthers begins under a sole, outspoken new owner.
While much of what Tepper, 60, could do when he takes over (including building new practice facilities and making staffing changes) remains to be seen, here's what's knownabout how the Tepper era will begin.
No minority partners
Tepper is not taking on any minority partners — at least not for now. Although he doesn't need any since he bought the team outright, Tepper could always opt to take some partners on later.
Tepper himself was a minority partner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, buying a stake in his hometown team in 2009. Tepper has to give up his Steelers' shares now that he's set to become the second owner in Panthers history.
Industry experts say there are pros and cons of taking on minority partners. A new-to-town owner could leverage the network of well-established businesspeople in Charlotte, such as Family Dollar founder Howard Levine, or the Belk family, who founded the Belk department store chain.
Taking on minority partners means Tepper would have to make a capital call every time he wanted to make a new investment.
Charlotte businessman Cameron “Cammie” Harris, a longtime Panthers minority owner, said he has not been in contact with Tepper about minority ownership. Harris said he'd be interested in a minority partnership if Tepper felt he needed some Charlotte representation.
"There are some other partners who feel the same way," said Harris, whose brother, prominent real estate developer Johnny Harris, is also a minority partner.
Tepper is also expected to remain at the helm of Appaloosa Management, the hedge fund firm he started in 1993.
Over the years, Tepper made billions from risky bets on investments such as Russian debt and bonds from bankrupt companies. Appaloosa now manages about $17 billion for investors. Tepper has a net worth of approximately $11 billion, according to Forbes.
The fan experience
One of Tepper's early investors is Alan Shealy, principal at the Boise investment firm Claremont Partners. Shealy describes Tepper as a "quintessential opportunist."
"If he sees opportunity somewhere, he will cross the Rubicon to get there," Shealy said.
One such opportunity Tepper is expected to take advantage of is using analytics to improve the fan experience at Bank of America Stadium.
That's something the New England Patriots have been doing through the team's operator, Kraft Sports Group, which examines fan behavior and uses analytics to tailor its marketing tactics.
For instance, the Patriots' analytics group uses databases and modeling to determine whether season-ticket holders will renew. If a fan misses two games, the team will reach out to them with a survey, personal calls and letters to help encourage season-ticket renewal, according to DMN, a New York-based firm that specializes in data-driven marketing analysis.
It's not yet clear what kind of staffing changes Tepper could make at the Panthers' front office.
With Tepper expected to continue running his hedge fund, he'll likely need a top lieutenant to run the day-to-day operations of the Panthers. That could come in the form of a team president, a post that has remained vacant since Danny Morrison unexpectedly stepped down last year.
Tepper is not expected to make any immediate personnel changes on the football side of the organization.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who has been to the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, and general manager Marty Hurney have contracts that run through the 2020 season.
Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports business consultant who advises NFL team owners on business matters, said he doesn't anticipate any sweeping changes. "Anytime a new team owner comes in, it is inevitable that they will have some of their own people at certain positions," Ganis said.
Richardson announced plans to sell the team in December, hours after Sports Illustrated published a story alleging years of sexual and racial workplace misconduct by team founder Richardson.
On Thursday, the NFL released a statement saying that it was fining Richardson $2.75 million after a months-long investigation found that the allegations were substantiated.
Independent investigator Mary Jo White also noted the Panthers’ enhanced anti-harassment and discrimination policy, as well as the workplace training the team has initiated. Among other recommendations, White said that nondisclosure agreements that keep employees from reporting violations of the personal conduct policy should be prohibited.
Through a spokesman, Tepper said he supports the anti-discrimination policy and the recommendations by White to ensure a safe and inclusive workplace at Bank of America Stadium.
"I’m a person that believes in equality for everybody, including men and women," Tepper said following his approval in Atlanta by NFL owners as the Panthers owner last month.
The billionaire next door
Tepper grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s when the Steelers were collecting Super Bowl rings like trading cards with a star-studded roster that included Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Mean Joe Greene. Tepper’s family followed all the Pittsburgh teams.
Sheryl Weitman, Tepper’s sister, remembers Tepper going to Pirates games at Forbes Field with his grandfather. They'd pay a quarter to sit in the bleachers and watch Tepper’s idol, Pirates great Roberto Clemente.
After buying a stake in the Steelers in 2009, Tepper would attend Steelers' board meetings and call attention to current trends like fantasy football, as well as ways to improve the gameday experience for fans who wanted to keep up with their fantasy teams.
But Tepper made it clear after he was approved as the Panthers owner in May what his main focus is.
“If I’m moving someplace and we’re doing this at Carolina, the first thing I care about is winning,” said Tepper, adding that winning also is the second and third things he cares about, too.
Weitman, who lives in Miami near a lot of Tepper’s extended family, says her brother has grown accustomed to winning.
“He’s been described as a rich guy who’s middle class. He puts on no airs. We’re just a football-loving family,” she said.
“I think he likes to win. And hopefully that’s what we’ll do in Charlotte. We like Super Bowls. Well, you know, we’ve been Steelers fans our whole lives. So we hope we’ll bring some of the magic to Charlotte.”
Much has been made of Tepper’s “billionaire next door” persona. But family members and associates say his salt-of-the-earth reputation is not an act.
Shealy, the Appaloosa investor, called Tepper a "humble guy" who isn't afraid to speak his mind.
"There will be very little guesswork when it comes to David Tepper’s opinions on things," Shealy said.