Leaked Carolina Panthers financial documents show a rich organization as it asks for millions in public funds
The Carolina Panthers will never be in the same financial ballpark as the Chicago Bears or New York Jets. Their market share is simply too small.
Thus, in what owner Jerry Richardson pushed as a necessary expense for the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina, a $300 million renovation was planned for Bank of America Stadium. The construction is going to add luxury boxes and all the fun things that jack up local revenue streams compared to stadiums of the previous generation.
This is fact, of course, but the fact that Richardson’s ownership group needs the city and state to pay for it is absolute fallacy.
And now everyone knows it.
Deadspin got a hold of leaked financial documents that detail exactly how much money the team has made over the last two years, and, well, it’s a lot. Even as Richardson and his fellow owners were squeezing whatever money they could out of the players during the 2011 NFL lockout, the man was enjoying a robust $112 million profit over two years.
But you weren’t supposed to know it.
Team financials in all sports are closely guarded documents, particularly because so much league business—stadium deals with municipalities, negotiations with players unions—relies on obscuring the owners’ financial picture. During collective bargaining in 2011, the NFL players union repeatedly asked owners to open their books. They were repeatedly denied.
“These franchises are a license to print money,” says Dennis Howard, a business professor at the University of Oregon, who looked over the Panthers’ financial statement at Deadspin’s request. “This team is pretty damn healthy,” he says, and its financial outlook is “very bright,” citing the new, owner-friendly collective bargaining agreement and the league’s fat new TV contract, signed in 2011, which kicks in next year. Under the terms of that deal, Howard estimates the Panthers could bring in an additional $60-$65 million in annual TV revenue alone.
Obviously, the financial records of professional sports teams are a closely guarded secret (except for the Green Bay Packers, who are publicly traded company, because they’re awesome and will never leave their relatively teensy-weensy TV market) and this is exactly why.
There was barely any reason for the city or state to give these multi-millionares any of the government’s money in the first place. Richardson was absolutely hoping to sell Carolina fans on the fact that his profit margins were far more slim than they actually are. Now, the state government is, in all likelihood, not going to budge on their stance that there will be no state money going towards the project.
“Based on the team’s financial condition, there is absolutely no justification for such a large public subsidy,” Howard writes in an email. The financials “show unequivocally that the team has the capacity to finance the improvements on its own. The team could easily pledge a portion of the anticipated increase in TV revenues to finance the debt service for the improvements.”
If you have ever felt like every single owner of every single sports franchise in the country is a liar on some level, Deadspin’s report only confirms those suspicions.
This uncovered document will hopefully make the general public think twice before handing over millions of dollars in public funds that will only be going towards lining private pockets.