Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to sell team at end of season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season, according to a statement released Sunday night.

The Panthers released Richardson's statement via Twitter, which read in part:

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought an NFL franchise to Charlotte. The obstacles back then were significant, and some even questions whether our community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance, The Carolinas would rise to the occasion."

The news comes amid allegations of workplace misconduct against Richardson, and an active investigation by the National Football League.

The 81-year-old Richardson brought NFL football to the Carolinas in 1993 when he became the first former NFL player since George Halas to own a team. The Panthers began playing two years later in 1995.

The sale's potential impact on Charlotte

The sale of the Panthers could have a major impact on the city of Charlotte.

On Sunday night, Eyewitness News reporter DaShawn Brown broke the news to City Councilman James Mitchell.

Mitchell has a close working relationship with Richardson, and said he meets with him quarterly.

Mitchell said he knew Richardson would sell the team one day, but didn’t think it would be so soon.

Mitchell said one of his biggest concerns is the chance that a new owner could move the Panthers out of Charlotte.

There's an agreement Richardson signed with the city four years ago that keeps the team in Charlotte through the middle of 2019, and if a new owner wants to move before 2023, they'd pay some penalties.

Even though the sale isn’t due to happen until the end of the season, Mitchell said he’s already thinking of ways to keep the team in Charlotte.

"It causes me some anxiety to know that someone could come in," Mitchell said. "I think what I'd like to do is probably start to reach out to some of our successful business owners and talk about 'Can we form a group?' to keep the team here."

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This year, Forbes estimated the team’s value at $2.3 billion, which Mitchell said the city can’t afford to lose.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles issued a statement Sunday night:

"The City of Charlotte values its long-running relationship with the Panthers after more than 22 seasons of NFL football. The Panthers are part of Charlotte's fabric. We've celebrated victories and anguished over defeats. We understand transitions are inevitable, and we look forward to working with current and future ownership. Keep Pounding." 

Councilman James Mitchell anticipates the Charlotte City Council will discuss the future of the Panthers in March.

NFL’s ‘33rd owner’ weighs in on Panther sale

The future of the Panthers revolves around the future of the Bank of America Stadium where they play home games and the revenue the venue generates.

Marc Ganis is often referred to as the NFL's "33rd owner" and has worked for decades as a consultant for dozens of NFL teams.

"A new stadium, or massively renovated Bank of America Stadium, would be a necessity for somebody paying more than $2 billion for the team," Ganis told Channel 9 from Chicago.

Taxpayers would likely be asked to support any new stadium and that's likely when talk about leaving town would heat up, according to Ganis.

Ganis said Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has a long history of putting fans first and believes new owners will likely prioritize revenue because of the multibillion-dollar price tag they'll have paid.

Many experts believe the NFL will not let the Panthers leave Charlotte without a fight because of its key geographical location for the league.

"It's a very complicated process to relocate an NFL team with the tremendous uncertainty associated with it," Ganis said.

The sale of the team alone carries uncertainty and Ganis said the only way to ensure stability is if Richardson decides not to sell, despite the allegations against him.

"Panther fans should be really concerned that Jerry Richardson is not going to be the owner of the team going forward," Ganis said.

The NFL consultant said that Panthers fans should consider a petition asking Richardson to stay on as owner.

"There is no one better to own the Carolina Panthers than Jerry Richardson for fans of the Panthers and people of the community," Garis said.

Social media reaction

Social media was buzzing Sunday night after news of the sale broke.

NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski was one of the first to weigh in, tweeting, “Anyone out there have 2 billion cash you could loan me?”

The rapper/songwriter turned business mogul Diddy tweeted, “I would like to buy the Panthers. Spread the word. Retweet!”

Charlotte radio host Chris Kroeger made mention of Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, tweeting, “Looks like there's a new business opportunity in town if MJ wants toss around a few shekels...”

Many on social media are asking if a sale of the team means a potential move of the team to a new city.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this developing story.

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