Reports of a projected sale price of $2.5 billion for the Panthers are exaggerated, league sources said, but a sale in excess of $2 billion is likely and should be completed by the start of next season. Richardson is intent on selling and the process will move quickly, the sources said, and could include some of the team's existing minority owners.
There are no lack of interested parties, including several minority owners from other NFL clubs, but the league office will have a more limited role in this sale. With Richardson not using an estate and not keeping the team within his family in any way, he does not have to accept the highest bidder and does not have to sell to whomever the league office might prefer. In fact, Richardson has unusual autonomy in the sale process after quickly opting to put the team on the market at the end of the season after became public.
While there has been plenty of speculation aboutof the team, no one I spoke to who has even a remote connect to Richardson envisioned that scenario. While any decision Richardson makes will require two-thirds of the owners voting to bring in the new owner, he can operate how he likes in determining whom he wants to sell to. Several interested parties said it has been made clear to them that Richardson will not engage in any conversations on this matter until after the season ends.
Sources said that Richardson assumed that by quickly announcing his intent to sell the team within hours of the SI.com story about the Panthers' workplace issues being published last Sunday, the NFL's investigation into these matters would be dropped. Richardson is prone to extremes and is known in some measure for his temper, and rather than take some time to assess potential NFL discipline and the future of his franchise, instead made a rapid decision on Sunday as the Panthers game was ending. While he did engage in several discussions with commissioner Roger Goodell over the weekend about this matter, he did not ask Goodell whether the investigation would continue if he sold the team; Goodell did not offer that either, sources said, but did inform the owner that the NFL would be investigating this situation.
The Panthers are tethered to their current stadium in Charlotte only until 2019. While there are limited options to relocate to at this time (London? San Diego? St. Louis?), it may provide some additional leverage for the new owner with the city. Richardson had clashed with some local officials in recent years over stadium upgrades.