Rubin group that could include Curry now out on Panthers

March 21, 2018, 5:20 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bidding for the Carolina Panthers has reached a record $2.5 billion, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

One candidate to purchase the team, Fanatics owner Michael Rubin, is currently not willing to go that high, a source told ESPN.

Rapper and mogul Sean "Diddy'' Combs and Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry were among potential minority partners with Rubin. At this point, billionaire businessman Joseph Tsai is the only confirmed partner with Rubin, sources said.

Rubin is willing to go higher than his initial bid, however, sources tell ESPN, and he remains interested at what he considers the right price, according to the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the bidding process is confidential.

Sources close to the process could not confirm to ESPN that the $2.5 billion is accurate. The Panthers are valued by Forbes at $2.3 billion. It is unclear what Rubin considers the right price.

The record for the sale of a professional sports franchise in the United States is the Houston Rockets, who were sold for $2.2 billion in 2017.

A source also confirmed that Salisbury, North Carolina, native James Goodnight, the co-founder and CEO of the software company SAS, has shown interest in purchasing the Panthers. It is not clear whether Goodnight, valued by Forbes at $10 billion, has made a bid.

However, sources close to the situation told ESPN that initial bids for the team currently owned by Jerry Richardson have been put in by Rubin; Bedrock Industries LP chairman and CEO Alan Kestenbaum; Charleston, South Carolina, billionaire Ben Navarro; and hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper.

The 55-year-old Kestenbaum, whose business focuses on owning and operating metals, mining and natural resources assets and companies, surfaced on Wednesday.

He is believed to have strong backing from Canadian businessman Jim Pattison, according to a source.

Bedrock Industries purchased Canadian steel company Stelco Inc., now known as Stelco Holdings Inc., last year.

Pattison, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $6.8 billion. The magazine did not list a net worth for Kestenbaum, but Stelco reportedly has a market value of about $1.3 billion.

Richardson, 81, announced in December plans to put the team up for sale amidst an NFL investigation into allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct.

He stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the organization after a Sports Illustrated article detailed the allegations. Tina Becker was named the chief operating officer.

After Richardson selects his choice for the winning bid, three-fourths of the 32 NFL owners have to approve the sale. The most likely time frame for that, ESPN reported last month, is the May 21-23 meetings in Atlanta.