Billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper, who reached an agreement last week to buy the Panthers from majority owner Jerry Richardson, was approved as the team's new owner at the Spring League Meeting on Tuesday, the team announced. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said club owners and the league's finance committee unanimously approved Tepper's ownership.
"The first thing I care about is winning," Tepper said after being introduced by Goodell as the Panthers' new owner. "The second thing I care about is winning. The third thing I care about is winning -- on and off the field."
Giving Tepper the green light to purchase the Panthers was the first agenda item for club owners attending this week's meetings. As Rapoport and NFL Network's Judy Battista noted last week, Tepper's approval was widely anticipated.
Tepper, whose net worth has been projected by Forbes at $11 billion, is buying the team for $2.275 billion -- the most ever paid for a North American sports franchise. With the NFL approving the sale, Tepper's purchase is expected to be finalized in July, according to Battista.
Tepper, 60, beat out South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro and Canadian steel and mining executive Alan Kestenbaum for the right to purchase the team. Tepper got emotional when talking about his rise into the NFL ownership ranks while making a commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon University on Sunday.
"A kid who couldn't afford to go to an NFL game until well into his twenties is on the verge of getting the NFL's approval to buy the Carolina Panthers," Tepper said while trying to hold back tears. "None too shabby."
Considered the early favorite to purchase the Panthers after Richardson put the team up for sale in December, Tepper will have to sell the five percent stake he currently owns in his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers in order to comply with NFL ownership rules. Tepper, who made his fortune after establishing his own hedge fund firm in the 1990s after a stint at Goldman Sachs, immediately becomes one of the NFL's wealthiest owners.
Richardson decided to sell the team shortly after the league took over an investigation looking into allegations of workplace misconduct against him. The Panthers 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.