Commentary: Is Puffy just talking?

Commentary: Is Puffy just talking?
January 25
03:00 2018

By William Reed

After reports of owner Jerry Richardson being accused of “misconduct,” the Carolina Panthers football team is for sale. Several high-profile black celebrities and athletes have offered to join an ownership group:  The next great black hope is to buy Carolina Panthers football team. 

Sean “Puffy” Combs is hoping to remedy the league’s lack of minority owners by inserting his name for ownership.   The hip-hop mogul vowed 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.   NBA star (and Charlotte native) Stephen Curry tweeted to Puffy: “I want in.” 

Despite Puff Daddy’s “affirmative action plea,” NFL ownership is a billionaire’s game.  Former Baltimore Colts tight-end Jerry Richardson has owned the Panthers since they joined the NFL in 1993. Forbes magazine values the Panthers at $2.3 billion.   Diddy’s net worth is estimated to be $820 million by Forbes so he will require more than just Curry’s help to buy the Panthers. The NFL has altered its ownership rules in recent years, but a single incoming owner must still 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.

Now, “misconduct” Jerry Richardson has given up Carolina Panthers’ day-to-day operations.  The city of Charlotte is a player in the Carolina Panthers’ deal.  The Charlotte City Council approved $87.5 million in public money that keeps the Panthers in Charlotte through the 2018 season.  One of the problems that come up with 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.

The state has a pool of potential owners for the Panthers that have substantial assets at their disposal: the Belk Family owns roughly 5 percent of the team.  Belk is an American department store chain founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk in Monroe, North Carolina. Belk stores offer apparel, shoes, accessories, and home furnishings.  The South’s first family of retail sold its department store chain in 2015 for roughly $2.7 billion. 

Another retailing family owns around 10 percent of the team: the Levine Family.    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. The family holds billionaire status. 

Bruton Smith is the founder and chairman of Speedway Motorsports, manager of eight Nascar tracks. Smith’s fortune was valued at $1 billion. But a red flag is that Smith is also 90 years old. 

James Goodnight is co-founder of analytics software firm SAS is North Carolina’s richest resident at $9.9 billion. The 74-year-old could write the check for the Panthers easier than anyone else from North Carolina.  John Sall co-founded SAS with Goodnight and ranks as North Carolina’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 of tied up in his 90 percent stake in the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan took control of the Hornets with $25 million in cash while absorbing $150 million in debt and agreeing to fund future losses. Control of the Panthers will require a much bigger check. Jordan recently participated in the $1.2 billion Miami Marlins purchase.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via

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