CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the Panthers prepare to play NFC South rival New Orleans Saints Sunday in the playoffs, some of Charlotte’s business people are crunching numbers, drafting their own plan to bid on the team.
Eyewitness News reporter DaShawn Brown spoke one-on-one Friday with Charlotte Hornets minority owner Felix Sabates, who is part of a group interested in buying the Carolina Panthers.
Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced he is selling the team at the end of the season after it was announced that he was being investigated for allegations of workplace misconduct.
“We're not doing this just to play in the owner’s box,” Sabates said. “We're just doing this because we think long term it's a good investment.”
Sabates said there are seven investors in the group, and two of them are already minority owners of the Panthers, but he would not give their names.
“We need for the company that Jerry hired to sell the team to give us the playbook, and say, ‘This is what we need from you,’” Sabates said.
Sabates said former Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad expressed interest in joining his group of investors, and the two had lunch last week.
NBA All-Star Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte, has also publicly stated his interest in submitting a bid to purchase the Panthers.
Sabates said he would welcome Curry as part of their investors group, and while the two have not spoken, Sabates is scheduled to meet with Curry’s father, Hornets great Dell Curry, next week.
Sabates has been doing everything he can do to give his group a competitive edge. He's consulted with several NFL executives about the sale process and has called one of the firms that will handle the Panthers sale.
“I would like, 20 years from now, for someone to say, ‘Jerry Richardson brought the Panthers to Charlotte and Felix Sabates helped to keep it here,” Sabates said.
Sabates said he's visited four NFL stadiums in three weeks and building a new stadium in Charlotte is a priority.
“If you have a new stadium, the NFL will probably give you a Super Bowl,” Sabates said.
Gov. Roy Cooper said the Panthers are critical to Charlotte and the state's economy.
Cooper is consulting with local city and business leaders on ways the state can help with the transition.
“I can't imagine any owner who would buy this team and move it, because this is a great place to be,” Cooper said.
North Carolina state officials don’t know enough about the potential sale to make any specific proposals, including whether state money will be needed, Cooper said.
Panthers fans aren’t ready for the season to end.
“I've got faith in them,” fan Langston Darby said.
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