Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson has announced his intentions to sell the team after the 2017 season. Richardson’s announcement came as a shock to many. The Carolina Panthers named Tina Becker as their chief operating officer, relieving Richardson of day-to-day control of the team. Becker has been a Panthers employee for over 20 years.
The announcement comes amid reports of settled complaints of inappropriate workplace behavior against the owner. According to reports, the owner reached confidential financial settlements with at least four Panthers employees regarding these allegations. The financial settlements included non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses to silence the accusers. Richardson has also been accused of directing a racial slur toward an African-American scout.
Richardson’s voluntary action saved the NFL from having to wrestle a team away from a scandal-ridden owner, like the NBA experienced with former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Richardson co-chaired the committee that hired commissioner Roger Goodell in 2006.
According to a Forbes valuation, the Panthers are currently worth about $2.3 billion. Richardson’s 48 percent share of the Panthers is likely worth in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion. In the NFL, each team picked up a $244-million national revenue check last year. The NFL earns $6 billion a year in TV rights fees.
It is rare for NFL teams to hit the market. There are only 32 teams and only eight teams have turned over in the past 15 years. In the past five years, only the Buffalo Bills has been sold. The team only had one real bidder and was eventually sold for $1.4 billion in 2014. Two NBA teams were sold in 2017; the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion and 49 percent of the Brooklyn Nets at a valuation of $2.3 billion.
There is already speculation swirling over who may buy the team. Reports have emerged that Sean “Diddy” Combs is “moving to set meetings with potential investors in hopes of shaping a prospective ownership group” with the intent of potentially buying the Panthers. To date, the NFL has never had an African-American majority owner.
Combs expressed some of the potential plans for the team in an Instagram video. Combs doesn’t have the financial means to buy the Panthers on his own, with a net worth of about $820 million, according to Forbes.