Business North Carolina’s Caroline Maas attended the July 10 press conference held by new Carolina Panthers’ owned David Tepper. Here is her report.
The room buzzed with a quiet excitement as Tepper was led down the metal stairs of the Panthers’ conference room onto the stage before dozens of reporters. After all, the last time the press heard anything from previous Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, was in January 2011.
As Tepper took his place behind the podium, the top two buttons of his shirt unbuttoned and glasses placed gingerly on the bridge of his nose, it became immediately apparent that situations dealing with the financial side of football were not new territory to him.
Tepper, 60, was previously a 5% owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, before he closed his $2.2 billion cash purchase of the Carolina Panthers on Monday.
Tepper is founder and CEO of the Appaloosa Management hedge fund and has a net worth of $11 billion, according to Forbes. He’s been in the news most recently for efforts to press for management changes at Botox maker Allergan.
During the 30-minute press conference, Tepper stressed the “openness of all sides of this organization: Both the football and the business side.”
“If I go and invest in something, I don’t expect other people to pay for it. But if we are talking about a win-win situation, it’s a partnership. We open this stadium up for other things and the people are using things that I’m helping to bring here,” Tepper said in response to a question on how pro sports should be supported with public subsidies.
“Everything goes hand-in-hand in this community … including high school games. I kind of think high school games should be played in the stadium. I don’t want to screw up the fields but I think there should be more events there,” he says, reiterating his intention of creating a stronger sense of the unity between the Panthers and the community.
“I believe the fans are the 12th man on the field. There’s other development here, but if we do move the practice field some place other than right next to the stadium, there’s room for other development.”
Tepper bought the team from an investor group led by Jerry Richardson, whose workplace misconduct issues prompted a recent $2.75 million fine from the NFL, a league record. Richardson helped found the team in 1993.
“Look…whatever it was, WAS. That was then, this is now. This is an open place,” he said.
Still, Tepper surprised the gathering with his comment that he is “contractually obligated” to leave the towering statue of Jerry Richardson standing at the stadium’s entrance. So while the team is getting a fresh start, it will be easy for stadium visitors to remember the old days.
Tepper complimented the team’s talent and coaching staff. “[The players are] incredibly good guys who love this country and who are already so involved. I know it doesn’t get reported about enough and I want to start emphasizing the positive.”
Forbes estimates the Panthers generated revenue last year of $385 million.