Why the Carolina Panthers Need a Succession Plan

Wes Connor Insurance is a leading Property and Casualty Agency in Charlotte, NC. Thanks to their love of sports, entrepreneurialism and insurance, they have sponsored this article. You can find the office of Wes Connor Insurance on Providence Road in South Charlotte near the new developments of Waverly Place and Rea Farms. If you are looking to get a quote on your auto or home insurance policy, give Wes and his staff a call at 704.665.5340.


Jerry Richardson is not going to live forever. Not to be morbid or anything.

The 81-year-old owner of the Carolina Panthers could live another 20 years, but chances are that he won’t. Normally we wouldn’t dare talk about someone’s longevity here, but when it comes to great impact in the sports and business world, we must. The question is: what is going to happen to the Carolina Panthers when he passes? The team will be sold, and the new owner could decide to relocate to another city. The value of the team per Forbes is 1.5 billion dollars and with the popularity of the NFL, you can assume there will be many interested buyers with their own agenda. That being said, there is a real threat that the Panthers could leave Charlotte.


Because a new owner may feel like they can run a better business in a new city like San Antonio, St. Louis, San Diego, Chicago, New York City, London, Mexico City or many others. Or because a new owner may have hopes of hosting a Super Bowl, and right now, Charlotte can’t host a Super Bowl since it doesn’t have the hotel capacity (30,000 rooms) that the NFL requires. Nor is its stadium top-notch. Nor is the stadium a dome.

The city is working on the issue of hotel rooms, and it’s certainly working on the stadium. By 2018, the city will have made renovations to the stadium worth around $87.5 million. The team president has stated that the Panthers will have the “best outdoor stadium in America” when the renovations are completed (that’s his opinion). Yet the stadium still will not have a dome and if you have lived in Charlotte you would know it would be a roll of the dice to have a major event in the Queen City during early February. Nonetheless, Charlotte could well be ready to host a Super Bowl by 2022. That’s only five years from now.

But the reality is, the new owner could decide to relocate even if all the Super Bowl obstacles are resolved. Without knowing who the new owner will be or their motives for an NFL team purchase, there really is no way to guess. Charlotte could lose the Carolina Panthers and it could happen at any time. With Richardson having heart replacement surgery in 2009 and shoulder surgery this spring, his age is definitely catching up with him. If we woke up tomorrow to find out he passed away in his sleep or died in an accident, what would happen? If your a Panthers’ fan, it’s scary to even think about.

This is where a succession plan comes in. If Jerry Richardson created a new succession plan with Charlotte as the benefactor, the city could breathe that much easier. He intends to retain ownership for the rest of his life (and why wouldn’t he—if he sold today, the amount of taxes he would owe on the sale would be astronomical! When he dies, his beneficiaries get a step-up at basis thus drastically reducing the tax burden) and he intends to keep the team in Charlotte while he owns it. By making an arrangement with a future buyer now, he can ensure that the Panthers go to someone who also intends to leave the team where it is. As it stands now, the current succession plan states that the Panthers are to be sold less than two years after the death of Richardson. At that point, if the new owner chose to move the team, there is nothing Charlotte nor the fans could do about it. Needless to say, this would be a devastating blow to the economy and the fans, and who knows when or if Charlotte could ever gain another NFL franchise.

And that brings us to a question closer to home, have you created a succession plan for your own business? What happens if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? What happens to your company?

A succession plan is your tool to take care of your company (and those it directly and indirectly impacts) after you’re gone. You can ensure that important information will be transferred, that debts will be taken care of properly, and that the new team is willing and able to lead the company. Even if you make some plans that your colleagues disagree with, at least they’ll know what is going on and they can plan accordingly.

You’re not going to live forever, either, but you can take steps now to make sure your business interests—and everyone who depends on them—will be ok.


Important notes on the Carolina Panthers:

Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, is a possible buyer.

In 2012 Richardson met with former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to discuss the possible sale of the Panthers to an investor that would move the franchise to California. Granted Los Angeles now has two teams, but other cities in California have lost teams as well (San Diego and Oakland), so there is definitely an open market.


A big thanks to Wes Connor Insurance for their support to the city of Charlotte and for sponsoring this article.



As an entrepreneur in the insurance industry, my company often engages in difficult conversations about death and its impact on businesses and families. This article is not meant to be offensive or hurtful, but to encourage conversations about how families and business can proactively protect themselves. We greatly respect Jerry Richardson and what he has accomplished for the Charlotte area.