David Tepper, the hedge fund billionaire who is the new owner of the Carolina Panthers, claims, according to a 2010 profile in New York Magazine, to have popularized the phrase "It is what it is". That should mean he will fit right in with NFL coaches, who use the cliché as a default response to avoid saying anything more illuminating.
Tepper will also fit in with his new partners, the NFL owners who will approve his purchase of the Panthers from Jerry Richardson for a price between $2.2-2.3 billion in cash, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Tepper, whose net worth has been projected by Forbes at $11 billion, was not the highest bidder for the team -- the New York Times reported that Ben Navarro, who runs an investment firm, bid $2.6 billion -- that went on the market at the end of the 2017 season.
The sale price, though, is a record for an NFL franchise and easily eclipses the $1.4 billion Terry and Kim Pegula paid for the Buffalo Bills just four years ago. Tepper had been considered the favorite to land the team and was the preferred choice of many other owners because he has enough money to buy the team without other investors and because, as a minority stakeholder in his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers, he has already been vetted by the NFL. That virtually ensures that Tepper, who must sell his share of the Steelers to comply with league rules, will be easily approved when owners vote on the sale at their regularly scheduled spring meeting next week in Atlanta.
Tepper's purchase concludes a remarkable fall from grace for Richardson. A former player himself, Richardson was the founding owner of the franchise, which began play in 1995. There is statue of him outside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and Richardson once wielded considerable influence in league matters. But he abruptly announced he would sell the team last December, after the NFL took over an investigation into workplace misconduct allegations against him that were detailed in a Sports Illustrated story. Shortly after putting the team on the market, Richardson ceded day-to-day control of the team to chief operating officer Tina Becker. It is unclear if Becker, who has not spoken to reporters since, will have a role with the team after Tepper takes over. But the investigation into Richardson, which is being led by former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White, is expected to continue, in part because the NFL wants a new owner to have a full accounting of the existing workplace culture and because the league hopes to use the findings to inform guidelines for other teams.
"Bringing the Panthers and the NFL to the Carolinas in 1993 was enormously fulfilling for Rosalind and me and all of our partners," Richardson said via a statement. "We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support over the last 25 years. You have taken the Panthers into your hearts and made them part of this warm and supportive community. We want to thank all of our past and present players, coaches and staff for their hard work in making the Panthers a great success both on the field and in the community. The personal relationships we have enjoyed have been very meaningful to us.
"I look forward to turning the stewardship of the Panthers over to David Tepper. I have enjoyed getting to know him in this process and am confident that he will provide the organization with great leadership in both its football and community initiatives. I wish David and his family the very best as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives."
Rapoport has reported that Tepper intends to keep the team in Charlotte and to keep the football braintrust -- general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera -- intact. Tepper may bring on former Browns president and CFO Mike Keenan, a source told Rapoport. New owners, though, typically make changes to the non-football part of the franchise, although Tepper has not made his plans known.