New Owner Of The Panthers Really Dislikes Trump. What Does That Mean For The NFL?

Written by Dana Sanchez

Hedge fund manager and billionaire David Tepper paid a record-breaking $2.2 billion for the Carolina Panthers football franchise, and as a vocal critic of Donald Trump, his addition to the ranks of NFL owners is raising fans’ morale — or lowering it, depending on their politics.

Tepper has been vocal about his opinion of the 45th president, according to Sports Illustrated. Last month at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper told a first-year business school student:

” … I did call him a demented, narcissistic scumbag. And if you look up demented, narcissistic scumbag, you’ll see my name calling Trump that.  Just Google those three words.”

When the Carolina Panthers sale was first announced, several celebrities expressed interest, including hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced in December that he would sell his principal stake after the team started investigating him for “workplace misconduct,” CNN reported. Richardson said in 2009 that his family owned 48 percent of the team, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Diddy announced his desire to buy the team in December on Twitter in a video statement, saying none of the NFL’s controlling owners were African American. “Let’s make history,” he said in the tweet.

Golden State Warriors NBA star Stephen Curry responded on Twitter, saying he wanted to be part of Diddy’s ownership group. Curry grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a Panthers fan, Business Insider reported. Curry has the financial muscle of a $200-million-plus contract signed in the off-season.

In his video statement, Diddy said as Carolina Panthers owner he’d “immediately address” the contentious decision by NFL teams not to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Diddy said he’d give Kaepernick a job with the Panthers.

In August, 2016, Kaepernick sat on the bench while the national anthem played during a preseason game for the San Francisco 49ers. He told the media he chose to sit to protest police brutality and the oppression of people of color in the U.S. It cost him his job.

Kaepernick has since been suggested as a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Tepper was raised in a middle-class Pittsburgh family, according to Sports Illustrated. His father was an accountant and his mother, a public school teacher. After earning his master’s at Carnegie Mellon, Tepper rose fast in the ranks at Goldman Sachs but left after being passed over for a partnership. He started a hedge fund management company — Appaloosa Management.

Tepper is one of Wall Street’s most successful hedge-fund managers, according to Market Watch. Founded in 1993, Appaloosa Management has had cumulative net gains through 2017 of $25.4 billion, according to LCH Investments, ranking it No. 9 on the all-time list.

Tepper donates money to charities and food banks in the New York/New Jersey area including $200,000 in gift cards to families affected by Hurricane Sandy. He’s on the board of Robin Hood, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization, and he gave $3 million in hurricane relief to Houstonians and Puerto Ricans in 2017.

NFL owners will need to approve the sale of the Panthers to Tepper at their upcoming meeting next week in Atlanta.

Trump has gone up against the NFL several times before, Sports Illustrated reported:

In 2017, “he inserted himself into the ongoing discussions surrounding player protests during the national anthem when he referred to players who knelt (while protesting police brutality against people of color and inequality in the criminal justice system) as ‘sons of bitches’ and dared NFL owners to cut kneelers from their team rosters.”

He fought the NFL as far back as 1984 when he owned the USFL’s New Jersey Generals: “Trump was part of the USFL’s anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL in 1986 that the upstart league won in name only, getting a judgment of $1 and ultimately folding the USFL.”

Trump tried unsuccessfully to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014 — he was outbid by the Pegulas. “He  reportedly started a seemingly grassroots campaign to foil Jon Bon Jovi’s plans to purchase the team.”

No one can be sure yet what kind of NFL owner Tepper will be, Jonathan Jones reported in Sports Illustrated.

Tepper owns a 5 percent stake in the Steelers but that gave him little say with the owners — the Rooney family. He will sell his Pittsburgh stake upon purchasing the Panthers, Jones wrote.

Hints on how Tepper deals with employees and opponents may lie in this 2010 New York Magazine feature about his firm, which earned $7.5 billion by betting on the government to bail out the big banks in 2009:

He bought a mansion in the Hamptons that had been owned by the ex-wife of the man who passed him over for a partnership at Goldman. He has a ‘cartoonishly huge’ set of brass testicles on a plaque with the words ‘The Most Valuable Set of All Time’ on display in his office. An unnamed former employee said he had stuff thrown at him by Tepper and described his personality ‘like Jekyll and Hyde.’

Those personality traits—and wall adornments—may follow him to Carolina. What seems certain is that his feud with Trump, one of the NFL’s biggest agitators, will soon be set for another round.”

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About Dana Sanchez
Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubail Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.