Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Strange Panther doings at the top

In one of the oddest and most jarring Carolina Panther announcements in franchise history, the team said today that team president Mark Richardson and stadium president Jon Richardson have announced their resignations from the Carolina Panthers.

Excuse me?!

A team official has told me that there is no plan to sell or move the team in the wake of this announcement, so at least that rumor can (more or less) be put to rest.

But an announcement like this makes all sorts of other rumors pop up. The quotes in the Panthers' press release – one apiece from owner Jerry Richardson, Mark and Jon – tried to smooth over any rumblings of internal discontent. Those quotes also gave absolutely no reason for why this was happening, which makes me think, of course, that there’s some serious internal discontent somewhere -- in fact, likely in several places.

Mark and Jon used words like “exciting” and “fortunate” and “unique” and “great” to describe their experience with the team in the press release. That begs the question: Why would you leave all that? They are still retaining a minority ownership stake in the team, but as far as the day-to-day operations, that’s done. Only Jerry Richardson is left.

And this is (or was) the Richardson family business, after all. Once it was hamburgers. Now it is football. You don't walk away -- or get pushed away -- from that lightly. (I left phone messages for Jon, Mark and Jerry Richardson, but haven't heard back from any of that trio).

Mark was groomed as Jerry Richardson’s heir apparent for years as No.1 on the Panthers' organizational chart. Who fills that role now is one of the biggest questions about this announcement. Well-liked Panther ticket guru Phil Youtsey -- who has been with the team since its inception -- would be one obvious candidate to run the business side like Mark did, but there will be others. Scott Paul will help direct the stadium operations side to help fill Jon's void. But titles may change -- no one is saying the Panthers are automatically going to add another president on the org chart.

Mark has been team president since 1997, since the generally beloved Mike McCormack retired. Mark is the dapper dresser with the expensive tastes who oversaw the business side of the Panther operations. The announcement of his resignation is the one that absolutely has stunned the Panthers' staff.

Jon is the more down-to-earth brother – the one who has battled cancer off-and-on for the past decade. He loves to wear jeans and eat at diners. Jon has been the head of Bank of America Stadium operations since it opened in 1996. The team release said Jon had told the Panthers’ staff awhile back he was going to resign.

In fact, Jon sent out an e-mail at least a month ago telling Panther staff members that he would be leaving without giving a timetable. From what a Panther source tells me, Jon's decision is lifestyle-related. Although his health is OK as of now, the long battle with cancer has taken a toll. He wants to have more time, basically, to enjoy life. This was a decision he had been mulling for many months.

But Mark Richardson no longer functioning as the team president? Now there's the shocker.

Here’s their father, team founder/owner Jerry "Big Cat" Richardson, in the team press release about their resignations: “Both Mark and Jon made great contributions to the stadium and team that have enabled us to enjoy much success over the last 15 years. At the same time, I am thankful that we have a staff that has been in place for many years and knows our philosophy.”

Hmm. If you’re reading the tea leaves on that quote, it’s not exactly brimming with praise, is it?

“Great contributions,” yes. That gets one sentence. But Jerry Richardson quickly comes back in the second sentence to make it sound like the staff in place can do the job just as well as his sons did.

Strange doings, for sure. Stay tuned. And make sure to read Wednesday's Charlotte Observer -- and on CharlotteObserver.com -- for more news on this developing story.

** And in the meantime, the Panthers traded for a defensive tackle -- Louis Leonard of Cleveland -- today. That was for an undisclosed draft choice, which usually means a late-round choice. Leonard only started 4 games in Cleveland the past two years -- he's no Kris Jenkins or Maake Kemoeatu -- but at least he weighs 325 pounds and can function as a space-eater if not much else.

On most days, that trade would have been huge news for the Panthers. Today, though, it's not much more than an afterthought due to the seismic tremors from the front office.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Their is discontent in the Richardson family. Don't worry all those secret investors will not even come close to letting the Panters leave town. Just not going to happen. Where would they go? Maybe Clemson South Carolina. They could take them for Sunday afternoon delight for encouragment after the Tigers disappoint the local again. The Richardsons are like a bad dream anyway. Never see them and they act as if the world owes them. Maybe they will find a way to move this team. Then Bank of America stadium could be used for a recyling center and then a final resting place called a trash dump.

Anonymous said...

I have lots of experience with family business, and sad to say, business acumen is not hereditary. It may be that the sons simply aren't the businessmen that their father is, and he has recognized it. I am sure that the players and coaches don't have nearly the respect for the sons that they do for the father, who actually played the game.

JMHO

Anonymous said...

Inheritance formalities...nothing more...Big Cat could go anytime now so they want Mark to not be an employee so he can take over as majority Owner when his Pop dies. You should know better, frankly.

Brandon said...

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!?

Doc said...

This really sounds like it has to do with inheritence laws about them being owners and not employees of the Panthers.
AND while we are at it woudl everyone PLEASE stop saying anything about the team moveing... NOT happening (at least for the next 26 years)

Doc said...

BTW - Let me be the first to submit the name Mike Shanahan as a possible team President replacement.

FIRE-FOX! said...

As I have been saying for some time, this team is about to implode. Fox will be gone before November is through, and it looks like the Richardson's are about done as well. Go Bobcats.

Anonymous said...

Inheritance laws? Seriously? Not a chance. I wonder if there was a dispute about selling the franchise?

Bird said...

FIRE-FOX, you idiot! How can the Richardsons be 'about done' when they own the friggin' team?? And why on earth would they fire John Fox 'by November' in the year after they went 12-4 with a track record of holding onto coaches way too long (see Siefert, Capers). Give me a break, Panther hater...

Anonymous said...

Who are the Bobcats? Thinkin this is just a healthy move on the Panther's part. Hmmmmm ever heard of the hole that's left in a bucket of water when your finger comes out?

Enjoy Jon!

Anonymous said...

Huh? What in the world do inheretance laws have to do with it? I'm no tax lawyer, but you guys are saying that there is some sort of tax break if someone is just minority owner and not minority owner operator? That sounds ludicrous to me....

I could see tax implications causing them to have to sell, much like it almost took down the Rooney's and the Steelers in the last 24 months, but it shouldn't have anything to do with what you guys are implying.

FIRE-FOX! said...

Bird, I would explain, but you are not prepared to understand. Enjoy your home on wheels.

Glitchh said...

The idea of Inheritance Formalities sounds good except for the cool public announcement given for their leaving makes another explanation seem likely. Maybe the boys are fed up with Fox and Hurney and sub .500 team they've clearly put together for this season while pop fiddles away and watches the team burn on yet another odd numbered year. Wonder if Mr. Shanahan would like to take over the team in mid-season?

Anonymous said...

Phil Youtsey is an idiot, and if he is promoted watch out Panther Fans. The worst thing that could happen to the franchise is promote the lying piece of garbage Youtsey

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget what this organization has been throught since it's inception. Rae Carruth, Fred Lane, 1-15 season under Seifert? I dont think there are disagreements going on. The inheritance thought makes total since with this family.

Oh yeah, Doc...Shannahan?? How bout Bill Cower?? That makes mores sense.

Ed said...

Shocker to say the least! REALLY strange development Time will reveal the real reasons. Media--do your job--DIG DIG DIG!
Gotta be tough working for a STRONG father figure. Must be some friction somewhere, more likely with Papa Jerry and Mark. Jon, I can understand.
I bet it is some sort of legal play that is big reason for Jon and Mark to walk.Doubt they will go hungry!

Anonymous said...

Colts... Browns... Oilers... Panthers.

t2sister said...

Someone asked where would the Panther's go? Los Angeles has been without an NFL team for a very long time and many people have been clamoring for one. The NFL has said more than once it would like to get another team into Los Angeles. I also agree that there are investors who would be hard pressed to let the team leave. But Los Angeles... I'm just sayin

Anonymous said...

The Southpark Madam strikes again, she has taken down several high profile Charlotte businessmen.

Anonymous said...

Definitely not estate planning. Nothing being an employee would affect that could not be put in place later. Also, if that was the reason would you not say so in order to not imply a break in ranks. I think it is related to life expectancy as in Jerry forces them out now to put in competent leadership before he is gone- he takes the heat versus their mother. Saying the staff understands the "philosophy" implies Mark and Jon do not?? Could they have wanted to be more aggressive- possibly go after Vick?

Anonymous said...

You Giant Tards! They don't move teams that sell out every game. Look to Jacksonville or other stadiums with seats covered up so they can "technically" be sellouts too. Those teams will be filling the new L.A. stadium. Plus, they own the stadium here (on the backs of all those PSLs) which would be difficult to just walk away from.

Anonymous said...

I think the sons are tired of "pop" calling ALL the shots. You have one man (Pops) calling ALL the shots for his sons, the coaches, the players, etc. and the decisions have not been good this year. I'd get tired of a parental control freak too.

Anonymous said...

Nepotism sucks anyway.

Doc said...

For anyone who doesn't think that inheritance laws have nothing to do with this go read up on what happened when Jack Kent Cooke former owner of the Washington Redskins didn't prepare carefully enough for his sons to take over the team after his death. It's a big deal when you stand to inheriet something worth a billion dollars.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking there was a big disagreement between Pops and Mark, probably over whether Mark was in fact going to be running things. Maybe Pops wanted to bring some new blood into the organization, and Mark said "hey I'm the boss here" and Pops said "don't let the door hit you in the a** on the way out." Pops probably does have some control freak issues, but when you are the majority owner, you are the boss.

Inheritance issues? Nonsense--plenty of ways to deal with that without firing the kids.

Anonymous said...

"I think the sons are tired of "pop" calling ALL the shots. You have one man (Pops) calling ALL the shots for his sons, the coaches, the players, etc. and the decisions have not been good this year. I'd get tired of a parental control freak too."

I think this sounds like the most plausible explanation. It would not be absurd to think that Mark wants to do things his way and Daddy won't let him.

Anonymous said...

Mark also has some unsavory skeletons in his closet.

Anonymous said...

Well, a heart transplant can make a person view life with a whole new perspective. Can't help but wonder during his illness how that changed the whole family dynamic. I know a transplant in our family changed things a lot. There had to be discussion about what would happen with the team if things didn't go well and perhaps the succession plans didn't go according to everyone's wishes. Its too soon after all this for it not to have played a part in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

This way Mark and John can buy the Bobcats, change their name to CAROLINA COUGARS, and own both teams an Bob Johnson can go to Wizzards games.

par said...

There has to be more than written. Mark Richardson has a few skeletons in the closet. John and Mark do not get along. There are a number of big time minority investors in the club that would love to have a bigger chunk.

Anonymous said...

Forget inheritance laws, forget Mark's 'skeletons'... this type of shake-up isn't the type if thing that happens to an organization 2 weeks before a regular season begins. This is the type mess that occurs in the off season. So there is a lot more to this than meets the eye.

Anonymous said...

You know what? Clearly there is something going on with the running of the Carolina Panthers. But you know what else? The world will not end, the team will NOT move and the passion and energy WILL NOT leave the town. Stop blowing things up. Stop spreading rumors about a family that you know nothing about. If you are a panther fan, so be it. Act like one. Wear your black, blue and silver. Sit in your PSLs. Tailgate. Show the team the love that it has always received from the great Carolinas. Stop the side conversation and stand up to cheer for another exciting season of Panther football in the Queen City. That is what the team needs, that is what the city needs, that is what the Richardson family needs. SUPPORT.

Anonymous said...

Well, Marks past may have caught up with him. Treat people the way he has over the years and it comes back at ya. John on the other hand deserves to "retire" and relax.Its not a tax issue.........there is more to come.

greatscot said...

Who cares? It's just a football team! Every year the characters get more and more unsavory, and the fans just keep lapping it up. Poor dumb bast*rds.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that people can find anything negative to say about the Richardsons. They are great people - and they are down to earth. Jerry and Rosalind Richardson worked for everything they have gotten - and they have made a huge investment which gave this city a NFL team. It is fine to speculate about why Jon and Mark made their decisions - but please let's keep it civil and away from trashing people.

Anonymous said...

Go Panthers!

Anonymous said...

How much ownership does The Richardson Family have in The Panthers? Who are some of the minority owners and thier percentages?

Anonymous said...

From sillyseasonovals.com Joe Gibbs will once again leave racing to be Panthers new president.

kosspro4aa said...

...shades of Bill Rosinski...and, on that particular subject, sure wish the "Big Cat" would have a change of heart...Mick Mixon, bless his heart, sounds just like he looks...

sam ogilvie said...

As a freshman at UNC-CH, I went out for barbecue at Crook's Corner with several guys from my dorm one evening. Several UNC football players were there, none of whom I knew. Later, at a party on campus, I saw the same group of players. One of the players came up and introduced himself, mentioned that he had seen me earlier at Crook's, and welcomed me to campus. That player and gentleman was Jon Richardson. It's my understanding that Jon has continued to conduct himself in a classy, friendly manner. After a successful football career at Carolina, he earned an MBA, ran a successful business and has done a fine job with the Panthers. He's a winner by any measure, and should be congratulated by the community for a job well done.

Anonymous said...

The Steelers are the only organization worth anything. 5 brothers inherit from their father, win 6 SB's and still peacefully divest in THE OFFSEASON to maintain family continuity in the running of the team. I pity Panthers fans.

Anonymous said...

the kids had little or no talent!!!!!jerry

Anonymous said...

I've have heard that this may be a move for Tax or Estate planning purposes. That is far from the truth, being the President of the stadium and team has no bearing on how the franchise is passed along is something happens to Mr. & Mrs. Richardson. I'm sure that Jerry has a comprehensive estate plan in place, that will include provisions for the team. Also, if they were selling the team, (which they are not) there is no tax benefit for them resigning. They are already minority owners.
As for this being like the Pittsburgh Steelers situation, this is much different. The Rooneys had to divest because of the NFL rules pertaining to owning a horse racing track in Florida and adding video poker machines. You are not allowed to own a gambing facility with that type of stake in an NFL team.

Anonymous said...

I hope bumbling bob johnson doesn't have any say in this.He would screw up a one car funeral procession.

Anonymous said...

I know Jon Richardson and he is a classy guy. Everyone just chill and let's see what develops with this story.

Anonymous said...

Remember that Jerry Richardson got where he is by stabbing his best friend, Charlie Bradshaw, in the back. It's not far fetched to assume he sacked Mark.

Anonymous said...

Jon was leaving anyway...they decided to tack on the Mark thing at the same time to throw the dogs off the trail. There is smoke here folks, and you know what they say about smoke. Something is up with Marky boy...someone in the media will figure it out, I am sure those who know will be talking soon.

Anonymous said...

The last two times we were shocked, it had to do with a woman....Think Mark Sanford or Rick Pitino. I believe this will be the next shoe to drop.

My theory: Jon is retiring as planned and they are pushing Mark's resignation at the same time so they appear linked. Personally, I believe the south park madame is a distinct possibility.

A history lesson....

Mark had his hands all over Rosinski's firing. Bill was the only tradition this franchise had, and because he made a comment about not getting an NFC Championship ring in 2003....he was gone. He has a major league voice....and we go from that to someone who sounds like they are going to pass out when they finish yelling, "Touch Down Carolina Panthers."

Also, those of you who have been Panther fans since 1995, may remember the first exhibition game at Clemson. It took thousands of us 8 HOURS to get back home.(We're talking 6AM the next morning) due to construction on I-85. There were so many negative comments in the media, that Mark felt compelled to fire someone over it. So he did! He fired a fine gentleman in operations who had just arrived here from Buffalo with his family. He had come in the same package with Polian and Rosinski.

I agree with the posts above concerning the "south park madame" and concerning "bring back Risinski"

Anonymous said...

They are going to buy the Bobcats and fire Jordan and Brown and hire Coach K.

thinkmore said...

Well, if they don't want the job... I'll take it!

Anonymous said...

We are silly, silly, Charlotteans. The franchise's location IS in play. Why would they want to stay in a metro area that is ripe for decline. Los Angeles is being whispered as the likely location for Jerry to move or sell the franchise.

"The Panthers will never move"? Sounds just like the people who, only two years ago, said, "the banks will never leave." You can't have an NFL franchise with a few Fortune 500 companies and a small population. Look at Jacksonville. Sorry, but Green Bay has tradition and nearby Milwaukee to draw corporate $$$ and fans.

Anonymous said...

As an employee in my father's business, I can say the business side and the family side collide quite often. I am betting this is a failed "power play" by the sons to take the business in a direction the father was not ready to take.

Even though tensions may be tight at the moment, I am confident things will work out and the Richardson sons will eventually have control of the franchise, in the future.

Anonymous said...

Even SI is ripping on Carolina based on its performances since mid November last year. It was pathetic to watch that playoff game loss. I lost money on it and I live in Phoenix (stupid cards, Delhomme you suck). Enjoy your six wins this season and all the drama.

James said...

Scott, did you know what was going on before the news conference? I would love to know the time frame of what happened. Did you guys get a preminition something big was going to happen, or did you think you were walking to BOA, thinking it was going to be a typical news conference?

SFPFC said...

Scott, you retard, stick to the facts.
Jerry Richardson had enough of the squabbling and unprofessional conduct from his sons, he gave them multiple chances, then he let them "resign" - aka he fired them.

Why would you insinuate that any of this meant selling or moving the franchise??? Where do you read into it any possibility of them leaving Charlotte?? It's like Obama rolling out a new healthcare bill, and you writing the story with a line "Meanwhile, his staffers confirmed to me that he is not having sexual realtions with other men". Now everyone wonders why you said that.
Typical Observer reporting - last to get breaking news, only get half the truth, speculate about unrelated topics, and fail to proofread for even basic grammatical errors. thanks!

Expert said...

I'm not seeing how inheritance tax is the reason for this matter. It seems that the negative role estate tax would play is in regard to the insufficient amount of liquid funds necessary to pay such a large tax upon Jerry's passing. This would be because the majority Jerry's assets are tied up in the ownership of the Panthers and such interest may have to be liquidated to pay the taxes. My $0.02