The Carolina Panthers football team is for sale, and several high-profile Blacks have offered to join an ownership group to make a bid. Among them is Sean “Diddy” Combs, who hopes to remedy the league’s lack of minority owners by throwing his hat into the ring.
Former Baltimore Colts tight end Jerry Richardson has owned the Panthers since they joined the NFL in 1993, but announced plans to sell the franchise amid allegations of workplace “misconduct” by the 81-year-old. For his part, Diddy promises an entrance as conspicuous as Richardson’s exit, vowing to bring in Colin Kaepernick in hopes of reviving his career: “I will immediately address the Colin Kaepernick situation and put him in the running for next year’s starting quarterback.”
Of course, there’s the matter of the price tag. One of the problems that come up with African Americans owning these teams is that they’re so expensive. The average NFL franchise is valued at $2.3 billion and the league has very tight restrictions on ownership. And despite Diddy’s plea for “affirmative action,” NFL ownership remains a billionaire’s game.
Forbes magazine values the Panthers at $2.3 billion. In recent years, the NFL has altered its ownership rules requiring a single incoming owner control at least 30 percent of the equity of the team to satisfy league rules and debt limits are capped at $250 million. That means one person must write a check for a minimum of $600 million to be controlling owner.
Diddy’s net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $820 million. Though undoubtedly wealthy and backed by other well-heeled celebrities — NBA star (and Charlotte native) Stephen Curry tweeted to Diddy: “I want in.” — he’ll need more than just Curry to buy the Panthers.
In whatever deal that comes about for the Panthers, the city of Charlotte is a player. The city council approval of $87.5 million in public money keeps the Panthers in town through the 2018 season.
While Steph and Diddy count names, the Carolinas has a pool of potential owners for the Panthers that have substantial assets at their disposal:
– The Belk family, which currently has a roughly 5 percent stake in the team, owned and operated a department store chain founded in 1888 before selling in 2015 for roughly $2.7 billion.
– The Levine family is another retailing family owns about 10 percent of the team:. Leon Levine founded Family Dollar in 1959 and the Levines ran the company until its sale to Dollar Tree in 2015 for $9.1 billion. Steve and Jerry Wordsworth are the biggest minority shareholders of the team with an estimated 16 percent.
– Bruton Smith, the 90-year-old founder and chairman of Speedway Motorsports, manages eight Nascar tracks and was valued at $1 billion early last year.
– James Goodnight, co-founder of analytics software firm SAS, is North Carolina’s richest resident at $9.9 billion. His co-founder, John Sall, is the state’s second-richest resident. The pair owns a country club and hotel together.
– Michael Jordan is worth an estimated $1.4 billion, with roughly $600 million tied up in his 90 percent stake in the Charlotte Hornets NBA team. Jordan took control of the Hornets with $25 million in cash while absorbing $150 million in debt and agreement to fund future losses. Jordan also recently participated in the $1.2 billion purchase of the Miami Marlins MLB franchise.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.