The Panthers appeared to be in line for a new practice facility in the near future, but the project which was planned to take place in Rock Hill, South Carolina was abandoned earlier this year. Owner David Tepper and his his real estate company are now the subject of a probe into the matter.
As detailed by Jeffrey Collins of the Associated Press, a criminal investigation has been opened by the York County Sheriff’s Office into Tepper and GT Real Estate regarding the potential misuse of public funds during the short-lived process of attempting to build the facility. In question is the $21MM in sales tax money which the company is accused of using on a “failed vanity project” before they recently declared bankruptcy.
That figure is roughly equivalent to the amount paid out to York County following a settlement reached between the two parties. That process very recently ended a lawsuit filed against Tepper and the Panthers, one which has yet to be formally approved, Collins notes. The organization has suggested the announcement of a criminal probe could be related to the timing of the settlement agreement.
“An investigation is simply an inquiry and should not create any inference that wrongdoing has been committed by any party,” a joint statement issued by Sherriff Kevin Tolson and Solicitor Kevin Brackett reads. Tepper’s company has denied any wrongdoing, and argued that the project collapsed because funding from Rock Hill and other governments was never provided to facilitate its completion.
“This is a straightforward commercial matter that is being fully resolved,” GT Real Estate said in a statement of its own. “The underlying disputes arise under contracts that were jointly negotiated by the parties and are publicly available. The funds paid by the county were handled consistent with the terms of those contracts.”
Tepper, 65, bought the Panthers in 2018 for a then-record price of $2.2 billion. One of the NFL’s wealthiest owners, his tenure has most notably been marked to date by the failed head coaching hire of Matt Rhule and a years-long inability to acquire a long-term franchise quarterback. This story will remain worth watching in the event criminal action is deemed necessary against him and/or his company.