Former NFL star Peyton Manning is considering an offer to join a group bidding to buy the Carolina Panthers, The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday.
Ben Navarro, a Charleston, South Carolina, billionaire who is seeking to buy the Panthers from team founder Jerry Richardson, has reached out to Manning to join his ownership group, the report said, citing “two sources with knowledge of the discussions.”
“Manning is still considering Navarro’s offer to become a limited partner,” The Observer reported.
Richardson announced his plans to sell the team in December after he was accused of sexual harassment by female employees.
In addition to Navarro, three others are reportedly seeking to purchase the Panthers: hedge fund manager David Tepper, Canadian steel company CEO Alan Kestenbaum and e-commerce entrepreneur Michael Rubin.
The New York Times reported last month that Navarro is believed to be the leading bidder at $2.6 billion, “though it is unclear whether he needs the help of other investors to cover that price.”
If any NFL player has the money to help, it’s Manning. He was the top career earner in NFL history when he retired in 2016, having raked in $400 million from salary, bonuses, endorsements and licensing, according to Forbes.
The Observer said neither Manning nor Navarro could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Manning discussed the possibility of owning an NFL team in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King last October. He didn’t rule it out but said, “I keep looking for that $2.5 billion in my pocket. Just don’t see it.”
He mentioned Derek Jeter, who had just been named one of the owners of the Miami Marlins, saying the New York Yankees legend “will be great in that role.” (South Florida baseball fans might disagree.)
The scenario many have predicted for Manning is to return to the NFL as a general manager, following in the footsteps of Broncos quarterback-turned-executive John Elway, who brought him to Denver in 2012.
Manning indicated he likes that idea but isn’t in a hurry.
“It certainly could be a possibility,” he told King. “I know John didn’t take his job with the Broncos until he was 50 years old. He had stopped playing for 12 years at that point … I’m 41 years old and it’s my second season out, so people like to make that comparison but it is such an individual thing. …
“But I know what that job entails, and that is an all-in job. That is a do-not-put-your-phone-down-ever job. It’s a 24-7-365 days a year job. Because I know what that commitment is and what that job entails, it is just not the right place for me right now. I really am enjoying what I’m doing. As far as what will happen in the next few years I can’t really say, but like I said, I will always be close to the game.”
Earlier this year, Manning was pursued by both ESPN and Fox Sports to join their prime-time NFL broadcasts as lead analyst, but he turned down their lucrative offers.
“I don’t want to be a critic at this point,” he explained, saying he enjoys being a “fan.”
We’ll have to wait and see whether he’ll soon be a fan — and part owner — of the Carolina Panthers.
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