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David Tepper emerging as favorite to buy Panthers

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Might the Carolina Panthers have a new owner before Memorial Day?

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has zeroed in on hedge fund manager David Tepper as the best candidate to buy the team, according to multiple sources.

If the process continues to move forward, materials could be distributed to the finance committee next week in advance of a possible vote by owners at the Spring League Meeting in Atlanta, May 21-23. If the finance committee approves, the league owners are likely to approve, Rapoport added.

Tepper, a minority owner of the Steelers since 2009, has long been considered the favorite. Along with the league's familiarity with the hedge fund manager, his plans to keep the Panthers in Charlotte are key. Rapoport reported Tepper believes in the market, per sources familiar with his thinking.

Tepper and the Panthers are in the process of trying to close out a deal, but finalists Alan Kestenbaum and Ben Navarro have not been fully ruled out.

Tepper, worth an estimated $11 billion, is the only potential owner who could be approved by NFL owners at the league meeting in Atlanta in two weeks, per Rapoport. The other two face significant questions. If Tepper is not the next owner of the Panthers, the question of who will succeed Richardson will linger into the summer.

In order for the sale to become official, three-fourths of NFL team owners must approve the team's purchase.

Richardson announced he was selling the team in December after the league took over an investigation looking into allegations of workplace misconduct against him. The Panthers officially went up for sale following the team's wild-card loss in January. Richardson, the franchise founder, ceded day-to-day control of the team in December to Tina Becker, a 20-year employee of the team who was promoted to chief operating officer. Richardson, 81, remains under NFL investigation.

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