ATLANTA (AP) — The new owner of the Carolina Panthers is committed to keeping the team in the Carolinas.
And Charlotte is his clearly his first choice.
But David Tepper left a bit of wiggle room on his first day as owner of the team.
The NFL unanimously approved Tepper’s $2.2 billion purchase of the team from Jerry Richardson on Tuesday, leading to immediate questions about the new owner’s thoughts on replacing 22-year-old Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“What’s the name of the team? Carolina Panthers. It’s going to be the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said. “And that means this team has to have some kind of presence in the Carolinas and last time I saw, how many are there? That’s right, there’s two of them.”
Tepper seemed to be implying that he might consider other cities in North and South Carolina if efforts to build a new stadium in Charlotte fall through. The lease with Bank of America Stadium runs for only one more season.
Tepper also reiterated several times that the largest city in the Carolinas is the best place for the team.
“There is a logical place for this team, and it’s Charlotte,” he said. “And far as a new stadium, again, you’re asking me too much and the only thing I have a market on now is lack of knowledge. I’ll call it stupidity, so I’ve got that down. I’ll learn a lot more in the future.”
Tepper’s purchase was the first order of business at the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta. He was quickly approved after passing muster with the owners’ finance committee during a morning session.
“We congratulate David and welcome him to the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Tepper is paying an NFL-record price to buy the team from Jerry Richardson, the team’s founder and only owner since the Panthers entered the league in 1995.
Richardson abruptly announced he was selling the team last December after coming under investigation from the league for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. The probe is ongoing.
Tepper is the founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, with a reported net worth of $11 billion. Already familiar to the league as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, his purchase was quickly approved.
Tepper said he plans to formally take over the team in July.
In the meantime, he reserved judgment on both a new stadium and those who are running the football side of things, most notably general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera.
“I do think they have a great team down there right now,” Tepper said. “The biggest thing I can do is have a great appreciation of how stupid I am. Sometimes, it’s better to do nothing than to do something.”
Bank of America will be the NFL’s seventh-oldest stadium after Los Angeles opens its new facility for the Rams and Chargers, and the Raiders complete their move from Oakland to Las Vegas.
That has raised the prospect of the Panthers seeking another home if they can’t get a new stadium of their own.
Tepper touched on the idea of bringing a Major League Soccer team to Charlotte, which could improve the financial viability of a new stadium. The city was passed over in MLS’ latest round of expansion.
“The first thing I care about is winning. The second thing I care about is winning. And the third thing I care about is?” he said, waiting for the media to give the obvious answer. “That’s on and off the field. That includes charity aspect, community aspect and how you make a community better. So you win a lot of ways, and I don’t like losing in any way.”
Rivera said he looks forward to working with the new owner.
“He has a sense and a feel for football and he has been around it,” the coach said. “Eventually I know we will sit down and talk some football and talk about this team.”
While the owners were approving Tepper, the new-look Panthers were holding their first organized workouts some 250 miles away in Charlotte.
“For a lot of people, I am sure they are ready for some closure and for that transition to start,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “I think this transition has been inevitable for a little while since it was announced that the team would be sold. I think for a lot of people in the building, the players, the team, just to put all of this to rest and move forward in the new direction that the team is going with.”