The Carolina Panthers are officially the most expensive franchise NFL team in history. After being purchased for $2.2 billion by David Tepper, the founder of hedge fund Appaloosa Management, they have eclipsed the Buffalo Bills as the NFL team with the highest purchase price. In 2014, the Bills were purchased for $1.4 billion, nearly a billion less than the Panthers. Was this a smart move by Tepper, or is he in over his head?
First and foremost, Tepper has no shortage of money to invest, as his net worth is estimated to be about $11 billion. Clearly, he is no stranger to investing, and if history repeats itself, his investment will show returns.
Moreover, the previous owner Jerry Richardson bought the rights to start the team in 1993 for $206 million. After his sale of the team due to work misconduct allegations, he will have received a 968% (!!!) increase on his original investment.
The franchise is in a great place right now for David Tepper, justifying his massive purchase. In fact, according to Forbes, he bought it cheaper than its value, which is estimated at $2.3 billion. And although the team is ranked by Forbes as the 21st highest valued team (out of 32), it’s in a great position to continue expanding.
Since their 2015-2016 season in which the franchise lost in their second Super Bowl appearance to the Denver Broncos, they have struggled to succeed in the playoffs, but there is only room to grow for the relatively young franchise. Their franchise quarterback Cam Newton won the Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year awards that same year they arrived at the Super Bowl, and he has continued to shine for the Panthers. Consequently, he is incredibly marketable; in fact, according to Fortune, he makes $11 million from Under Armour, Gatorade, and Microsoft alone. Plus, with a Charlotte metro area population of 2.4 million and average revenue generated per fan valuing at $58, the Panthers have a decently sized market to expand upon.
Additionally, Tepper already meets the criteria of owning a franchise. He already owns a 5% stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers – though he will have to sell that stake if the sale is approved – and has gained the respect of the other NFL owners. Plus, the experience goes both ways – Tepper received positive reviews from the Steelers managements about both general manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera. Thus, the franchise is likely to stay largely intact with very few changes.
Now, what does this mean for the sports market as a whole? This whopping $2.2 billion is the highest purchase of any NFL team, but is this just an anomaly? The answer is no. Although this purchase values at almost twice the amount as the next highest (the Buffalo Bills at $1.4 million), the value of NFL teams has been on an upward trajectory for over a decade. In 2002, the Atlanta Falcons were purchased for $545 million, in 2010 the St. Louis Rams were purchased for $700 million, and in 2012 the Cleveland Browns were purchased for $1 billion. Hence, the NFL market continues to expand annually. Despite the concerns that the NFL is slowly dying because of the lack of safety in the sport, the opposite is actually true. In 2017, the NFL generated $14 billion in revenue, which is $900 million more than the previous season. Thus, even if fewer people are participating, the market is more valuable than ever.
The Carolina Panthers have a high ceiling for growth with stars like Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly on the field. With a new, experienced owner at the helm, the future looks bright for the Carolina Panthers.
Featured image via PublicDomainPictures/Paul Brennan