Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Dec 2017

Richardson Announces He Will Sell Panthers

Friday, December 15: The Carolina Panthers announce they are launching an internal investigation into team owner Jerry Richardson amidst "allegations of workplace misconduct." Shortly thereafter, our old pal Cian Fahey points out that Richardson -- the owner of the team since its inception in 1995, the only NFL player to ever move on to an ownership role, and dead ringer for Burgermeister Meisterburger -- is a bit of a hypocrite, at least when it comes to judging inappropriate behavior.

Sunday morning, December 17: The NFL announces they will take over the Panthers investigation. Also, Sports Illustrated reports that the Panthers had "multiple confidential payments" to employees due to sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur.

Sunday evening, December 17: The Panthers announces that Richards will put the team up for sale at the end of the season.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 17 Dec 2017

52 comments, Last at 23 Dec 2017, 1:09am by jackiel


by billprudden :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 9:37pm

He won't be the last...

by morganja :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 9:46pm

He must have really done something to get axed this quick. As one of the hard-core owners against Kaep for 'disrespecting the flag', they seem a little loosey goosey on the morals when it comes to disrespecting actual human beings.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:18pm

Guy who has a problem with Kaep is a racist and all around terrible human being? Color me surprised.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 9:55pm

Maybe they can take that stature of himself he put up outside the stadium and stick it next to the Joe Paterno statue in a warehouse, and then burn the warehouse to the ground.

by InTheBoilerRoom :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 10:38pm

Hopefully the team will be bought by someone who actually respects other people.

by morganja :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 10:46pm

Let me know when you find a billionaire like that, who wants to own an NFL team in a morally bankrupt cartel. Most likely it will be just another corrupt, hypocritical scumbag.

by InTheBoilerRoom :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:10am

Fair point. Success at making millions to billions of dollars rarely goes hand-in-hand with being a respectful individual. And most of those that are respectful and have enough cash would sooner put that cash towards philanthropy than splurging on a professional sports franchise.

That said, an owner like Paul Allen seems to be a best case scenario for professional sports team owners. He seems to be a genuine fan, and mostly stays out of the way of football/basketball operations.

But who knows. Maybe he's just like any other man in power, and something will come out eventually. I am gradually morphing from an optimist to a cynic as I get older, which is probably normal and I just need to get through the grief phase to the acceptance phase.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:58am

I don't care if a stranger is a billionaire, mere millionaire, thousandaire, or hundredaire. You don't know them, and it is a mistake to make any assumption, positive or negative, about the morality or immorality of their daily lives, until you get concrete evidence. Poor people, in my experience, aren't any more likely to be noble, their ignoble acts just tend to be on a smaller scale, and tends to get exposed

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:14am

My theory is that most ethically challenged people are as scumbag as they can get away with. The amount of scumbaggery that a billionaire can get away with is unfortunately magnitudes greater than what the guy working down at the 7-11 can pull off.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:55pm

Understand the sentiment, but not every billionaire is a complete scumbag. Kraft doesn't seem to be that bad a human being, and as much as Jets fans gripe about him, Woody Johnson seems like a decent human being as well. God knows I disagree strongly with his politics, but he seems like a decent human being.

by Richie :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:46pm

There's a continuum between scumbag and Mother Theresa.

Is it possible to build a billion dollar company and be closer to the Mother Theresa end of the continuum? I'm guessing not.

I think you have to make some ethically questionable decisions to build a company to that level.

I guess one exception might be if somebody overpays you for a company based on speculation. For example, I'm not sure if Mark Cuban's broadcast.com did anything ethically questionable (though I wouldn't be surprised if it did), but Cuban really made his money because Yahoo! decided to pay him ridiculous money for the company. I'm not sure if broadcast.com was really making any money at the time.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:48pm

Interesting. I find Kraft to be one of the worse. If I had to guess at the ones who weren't complete scumbags, based on what I know right now, I would think Paul Allen is at the top. The Rooneys have always seemed ethical.

by Richie :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:30pm

Yeah, probably easier to stay in a moral high ground if you are born into a rich family, and inherit an NFL team. I would guess the Maras, Hunts and Fords might be fairly clean as well.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:44pm

Arthur Blank?

by Richie :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:23pm

I don't know a ton about the history of Home Depot. I don't think they've done anything egregious.

But do they strong-arm their suppliers to lower their prices, like Wal-Mart has been accused of? I'm not sure where that tactic lies on the ethical scale. Do they pay their workers fairly? Do they limit employees hours so they don't qualify for full time benefits? Is it unethical to move a Home Depot into a town and put the locally-owned hardware store out of business?

by Will Allen :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 11:35pm

If not for his association the Denny's racism fiasco, I'd suspect he was an elderly heart transplant survivor who is developing full blown dementia. Because of the Denny's fiasco, however, I think it is more likely that he has always been a shitbag.

The sportstalk yelpers will be talking about the players suffering from distractions, but I'm very skeptical that it has any effect at all.

by coboney :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:40am

Especially when you consider that we've had stories on occasion of Richardson not being a nice person at times before, I doubt many of them will care too much. The most likely 'distraction' might be concerns about the team moving but I imagine for something that distant most NFL players are able to focus in on what's going on around them.

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:24pm

From what I've heard, Richardson owns the stadium outright, so the Panthers aren't going to be moving.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:06pm

Were the Patriots "distracted" when they got uprooted from their homes and families to stay and practice at the Air Force Academy the week before the Mexico City game? I'm sick of the entire notion that there are these nefarious "distractions" just one press conference away from imploding an otherwise normal locker room. It's like everyone thinks these players have never been distracted by anything before, they can only perform if they have TOTAL CONCENTRATION! That's probably why they don't let fans yell at games, everybody knows how badly distractable these players are.

You'd better pray there isn't a hot chick in the stands to distract the younger players! Or that none of your more mature players are distracted thinking about money or their parents' health or something. If they're that bad they almost certainly have ADHD. Some adderall would help that and enhance their physical performance besides!

by Richie :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:29pm

I agree with you, that the concept of distractions are overblown. But I don't think they are non-existent. The Patriots' situation may not be their usual routine, but at least it was a planned difficulty, and it didn't involve reporters asking lots of questions about it.

I think the Dolphins, Texans and Buccaneers may have been more distracted when hurricanes ripped through their towns and/or re-scheduled their games at the last minute. It's got to be tough to prepare for a football game, while you are also worrying about whether your family is getting evacuated, and if your house is getting destroyed, etc.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:09pm

Don't get distracted by my double post! You should be focusing on the post above this :P

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:29pm

Gotta think they will go for a lot of money. Good, competitive team. Clear leader in their market without much regional competition. Growing city. Marketable stars (Can, Keuchly).

Honestly think the Panthers will be better off for it.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:44pm

Puff Daddy wants to buy them!

As if Richardson would sell the team to a black guy. Or the other owners would let him.

But that would be awesome for the Panthers.

by ChrisS :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:33pm

And he wants to sign Kaep.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:48pm

With Stephen Curry and Kaep! That would be something.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:11pm

How is this not a bigger story? An NFL owner is being forced to sell his team due to alleged sexist and racist behavior! When this happened in the NBA with Donald Sterling, it was all anybody talked about for 6 months. But it seems like the league is going to quietly shove Richardson out the door and nobody really cares enough to make a stink about it.

Then again, this is all happening very fast. I'm sure there will be a long, juicy Seth Wickersham article about it in a week or so.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:32pm

Sterling fought the action. Richardson isn't. It is only quiet because Richardson is making it so. Frankly, once Richardson decided a few years ago that neither of his sons were to have any role in running the team, I've kind of been expecting him to sell. It makes estate planning easier.

by dbt :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 9:28pm

Sterling's actions, as I recall, were not mostly around his behavior with the team. There were some shitty comments about the players when in the locker room, but mostly it was about the PR.

This is about the way this guy managed his employees as part of his NFL franchise. It's more directly actionable.

(Same logic applies to the things we know about what Jerry Jones has done. And he was the victim of extortion at the same time.)

None of this is meant to defend any of them! Also, the fact that Sterling's ouster happened probably set the precedent for leagues, de facto if not de jure, that they had to take action in situations like this.

by Sixknots :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:26pm

Reading the Sports Illustrated article, Richardson came off as really creepy. I'll bet there are other owners that are also creepy in private or in situations where they feel secure and powerful enough to get away with it.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:11pm


by Jerry :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:39am

It's in the Sunday Morning section at the top.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:59am

I recall a story about a very drunk Jerry Jones hitting on a couple young women a few years back, and I wouldn't be surprised if his closet is full of sexually uncomfortable skeletons. This also makes me wonder if there are a number of owners and/or NFL commissioners who would love to take a few shots at him.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:11pm

I wouldn't be surprised if Jerel's chaperone, his son Stephen, has a team of lawyers and private investgators with checkbooks and briefcases filled with nondisclosure agreements, who spend considerable time spotting and snuffing out Jerel's alcohol fueled fires.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:32pm

One of his escapades wasn't even that hidden, with ridiculous sad, funny photos on Deadspin and the like.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:09pm

That's the one I remember. Drunk, red-faced Jerry leaning on someone a third his age.

by Richie :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:34pm

I missed the original story. Jerry is lucky it broke in 2014, instead of 2017.


by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:22pm

Now Richardson has surrendered day-to-day operations of the team:

by Rich A :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:43am

Simply what the subject line states: is an NFL franchise still a good investment?

There's no doubt that it has been a good investment up until this point, but with flat ratings and competing products such as e-sports etc, poor international growth compared to other sports such as soccer, and growing concerns with the impact of concussions and CTE, do you think market value will continue to rise for teams? Especially now that cities are letting teams leave regarding stadium deals?

If you had 10x the worth of an NFL team and buying the Panthers took 10% of your total wealth, would you buy them? Why or why not?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 5:21am

I'd say it's still a good investment and likely to be for another 5-10 years but I'd agree with your belief that it's getting towards the peak.

Despite what they say the owners have done a pretty good job of insulating themselves from any economic risk. The players get something like 55-60% of the revenues - so if those drop, the cap goes down - the league still turns a profit.

(Noting that Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys for $140 million and they're now estimated at $4.2billion. Worth 30 times more in almost 30 years. However that has been achieved by aggressively squeezing on every possible revenue/income stream available. It's hard to believe there are many left to squeeze on. The old NFL wasn't such a profitable place because it was content to be about football rather than about making money)

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:00pm

I think it depends on your definition of "good." I think the NFL's growth has peaked, but I also think it will be a long time before anyone loses money buying a team.

I think any individual with the wealth necessary to buy a team (in your example, roughly $10B if the Panthers are worth a billion) is in a position to consider more than just the potential to make a huge profit in an investment. He's not going to throw money away, but if owning an NFL team provides an ego boost and he likes the fame and attention, I could see being swayed by it even if he thinks he's only going to grow his money modestly. I mean, once you're talking billions, not millions, it's almost harder to spend all that money than it is to grow it, unless you do something colossally stupid.

by ChrisS :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:32pm

It seems like the NFL is near top as a pure monetary investment, but none of the other 3 major leagues have ever seen a consistent decline so I am probably wrong. There is also the non-monetary fame value, how many people would know who Richardson is (or 90% of the other owners)?

by jtr :: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 9:53am

The NFL has:
-Major concerns about the long term effects of head injuries
-No streaming solution to recover some of the viewership lost by cord-cutting
-Very little international following
-The shortest careers of any major sport, meaning that superstars are in the spotlight for less time
-A very high rate of major injury
-A bad reputation for inconsistent and byzantine rulings, on the field and off
-A major role in the Culture Wars with the anthem protests

None of the other three major sports in the USA suffer from many or any of these. It really feels like the least sustainable model in professional sports. If I was buying a sports team for investment purposes, I want an NBA team far more than I want an NFL team.

by jackiel :: Sat, 12/23/2017 - 1:09am

Yes! Depending upon the league, sports franchises are like owning a good dividend stock like Altria. A good portion of your revenue (TV money, season tickets, and suite sales) and costs (player salaries, operating the stadium during events) are known well in advance. They generate decent profits that you don’t have to reinvest in the business. Finally, franchises offer good tax deferred growth in an industry that’s somewhat immune from economic cycles, giving the owner good asset diversification. The low interest rate environment just adds to the attractiveness. I’d raise as much debt as possible to buy an NFL team.

As much as people like to pretend that the nfl is losing fan interest, people shouldn’t forget that games are some of the highest rated shows on TV each week. There are very few media properties that can deliver 20mm+ viewers each week.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:19pm

I think the peak value is right now. Or last year. Declining viewership is just going to continue to get worse. Do any of the clowns that own the other teams in the league seem capable of figuring out and solving that problem?
They have been fumbling around and self-sabotaging for a number of years now. Worse, they think the increasing revenues of the past years were due to their 'expertise', which makes recognizing and solving the problems that much harder.
One thing that they could do to reverse the process is to bring in some black owners, like Puff Daddy and Stephen Curry, people who know how to appeal to someone besides old, racist rednecks.
If they want to appeal to the changing demographics of the country, they are going to have to break out of the current dynamic; rich, politically-reactionary, white plantation owners versus player, billionaires.
They have mis-managed themselves into a corner where there seems to be no easy solutions to their problems. They need to break the mold, if they want to save the NFL.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:33pm

"One thing that they could do to reverse the process is to bring in some black owners, like Puff Daddy and Stephen Curry, people who know how to appeal to someone besides old, racist rednecks", I agree more minorities in ownership positions would be nice (this applies to all sports, really), but the two you mentioned have nowhere near close to the money to be majority owners in an NFL team.

At most, they can be a Jay-Z or Kobe type face of a group (or sole majority owner in Jay-Z's case)

by morganja :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 3:15pm

Puff Daddy is worth $820 million, according to Forbes, more than Jay-Z. Stephen Curry has got to be worth at least $100 million, with a $40 million/year contract and $35 million/year endorsement.

Considering it's only half the Panthers up for sale, it's totally doable. Puff Daddy is worth more than half the current owners, which include the inflated price of their franchise among their wealth.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 5:48pm

Starting with Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, there's been a clear trend in European soccer for major clubs to be bought by men who value them at least in part as a source of political security - they hope that in the event of the regime in their own country turning against them, or being ousted in favour of a less accommodating one, ownership of such a high profile asset in the West, and perhaps even the loyalty of a decent chunk of Western voters, will make them safer. Is there some reason this hasn't happened in US sports? Or that it won't?

by ChrisS :: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:49pm

In the US generally speaking the other owners have to approve any sale. So a Russian oligarch is most likely to be vetoed by 1 or more of the current owners. In Europe I believe this sort of exclusion would not be allowed

by morganja :: Thu, 12/21/2017 - 11:04am

It's a 3/4 vote, so it would take 9 to veto. But I think most of them would rather have a Russian gangster than a black owner.

by morganja :: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 1:10pm

The ESPN article today implied that there is a chance the NFL would seek out an owner that would move the franchise to London or Mexico City.

by Richie :: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 1:24pm

Isn't the Charlotte area one of the faster growing cities in the country? The Panthers are usually one of the top 10 teams in attendance. Why would the NFL want to move that franchise?

If having a team in London or Mexico City is really a priority, why not just expand?

It sure seems like a bad look to move a well-supported team like the Panthers.

by morganja :: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 2:41pm

Because the owners see more money coming to them from having a team in Mexico City or London with an international owner from some crony plutocracy or autocracy rich enough to own the team by himself.