Charleston businessman Ben Navarro made his first public statement Tuesday about his effort to buy the Carolina Panthers, shortly after it was reported that the NFL team is being sold for a record price to a Miami billionaire.
In a written statement, Navarro called the Charlotte-based franchise "one of the premier assets in all of the Carolinas" and said that he and his family were grateful to be among the bidders.
"It would have been a privilege to become the stewards of this iconic franchise to ensure its home remains in the Carolinas where it belongs, to establish a new era of leadership and excellence on and off the field, and to leverage the team’s NFL platform to further our quest to help all children gain access to a great education," the Broad Street resident said.
"We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the colleagues, business associates, and community and philanthropic partners who supported us. We wish the Panthers and their fans every success going forward," he added.
Navarro is CEO of Charleston-based Sherman Financial Group and is reportedly worth more than $2 billion.
He also is founder the education nonprofit Meeting Street Schools, which operates Meeting Street Academy campuses in downtown Charleston and Spartanburg. The private schools are geared toward mostly low-income minority students and charge nominal tuition costs.
Considered intensely private, Navarro did not publicly acknowledge that he was a bidder for the Panthers until Tuesday.
Billionaire investor David Tepper of Appaloosa Management was named as the buyer of the Panthers by multiple media outlet citing unidentified sources. The estimated $2.2 billion sale is subject to a vote at the NFL owners meeting in Atlanta next week.
Unlike Navarro, Tepper is well-known within the league, which could have given him an advantage in the negotiations. The Pittsburgh-born hedge fund founder owns 5 percent of his hometown Steelers, which he will be required to sell.
Longtime Panthers owner Jerry Richardson put the team up for sale in January after a Sports Illustrated report revealed allegations that he sexually harassed women and directed racist slurs toward a team scout. The NFL is investigating the allegations.