CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The two sons of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson resigned from high-ranking jobs in the organization Tuesday, an unexpected shake-up in one of the NFL's most stable and successful franchises.
Team president Mark Richardson and Bank of America Stadium head Jon Richardson announced their decisions in a statement at practice. They were expected to eventually take over the team from their 73-year-old father, whose role with has been limited since a February heart transplant.
The two men will remain members of the ownership group. But the resignations left unclear who would take over their management roles and run the franchise in the future. The NFL in 1993 awarded the expansion franchise to the Richardsons, who also own the downtown Charlotte stadium.
When asked if the team would be put up for sale, team spokesman Charlie Dayton said "absolutely not."
"Both Mark and Jon made great contributions to the stadium and the team that have enabled us to enjoy much success over the last 15 years," Jerry Richardson said in a statement. "At the same time, I am thankful that we have a staff that has been in place for many years and knows our philosophy."
The three Richardsons declined further comment through a team spokesman.
"One thing I can say is I have the utmost trust and confidence in Mr. Richardson to do what's best for this team and organization," coach John Fox said.
The team said Jon Richardson had been planning to leave for a month. Mark Richardson's resignation is more surprising, and stunned many in the business community.
Mark Richardson had taken over much of the day-to-day control of the team since his father's hospitalization last year. Jerry Richardson has been around the team little, attending only one training camp practice as he recovers.
Mark Richardson represented the team at owners meetings and was instrumental in cost-cutting measures this year, which included about 20 layoffs.
He said at the time the moves were made because of reduction in sponsorship revenue. But the Panthers have sold out 52 consecutive game and have the advantage of owning their own stadium.
"It has been a great opportunity to work with a franchise from the start and have a chance to see it mature," Mark Richardson said in a statement. "It has been a unique experience to see dreams become reality."
Fox told the players of the news as they left the practice field.
"Obviously both guys will be missed," said receiver Muhsin Muhammad, who has spent 11 of his 14 NFL seasons with the Panthers. "For whatever reason they resigned, no one knows exactly what that is. But we all have complete trust and faith in Mr. Richardson's ability to put good people in place."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press