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David Tepper a strong contender to purchase Panthers

A frontrunner has emerged in the Carolina Panthers' search for a new majority team owner.

Billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist David Tepper is considered a strong contender to purchase the team, a high-ranking team executive with knowledge of the process told NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. Another source informed of the discussions so far also reiterated to Garafolo that Tepper is a strong contender, going so far as to label him the "leader in the clubhouse."

Tepper, whose net worth has been estimated at $11 billion by Forbes, currently owns a five percent stake in the Steelers. If he were to purchase the Panthers, Tepper would have to sell his stake in the Steelers, as Jimmy Haslam did when he purchased the Cleveland Browns in 2012.

Born in Pittsburgh, Tepper, 60, is the founder and president of Appaloosa Management, a global hedge fund firm based in Miami Beach. While Tepper is considered a leading contender to purchase the team, the Panthers are still vetting other potential candidates. South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro is among those interested in buying the team and has been working on putting together a bid, Garafolo reported.

Once the Panthers make their decision, the candidate still must be approved by the NFL. Before the sale can become official, three-fourths of the league's 32 owners must approve the sale.

Majority owner Jerry 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 last month.

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.

The Buffalo Bills were the last team to be sold, fetching an NFL record $1.4 billion in 2014. The Panthers' sale could surpass that mark.

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