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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, May 10, 2018 1:30 pm

Manning reportedly considering offer to join bid for Panthers

DES BIELER | Washington Post

When Peyton Manning was reported last month to have turned down offers to become the color analyst for national NFL telecasts, he was thought to be more interested in running a team or even becoming part-owner of one.

The Hall of Fame-bound former quarterback may well get that chance, according to a report Wednesday.

A leading bidder for the Carolina Panthers has reached out to Manning about joining his ownership group, per the Charlotte Observer. The newspaper reported that Manning was "still considering" the offer.

The group is led by Ben Navarro, a 54-year-old billionaire based in Charleston, South Carolina, who heads an investment services company. His father, Frank Navarro, was a head football coach at Columbia and Princeton.

Navarro has reportedly made the highest offer for the Panthers, $2.6 billion, which would set a record for the most spent to acquire a U.S. sports team.

Other known bidders include Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner David Tepper and private-equity firm CEO Alan Kestenbaum.

Another possible buyer is Michael Rubin, an e-commerce billionaire who reportedly dropped out of the bidding when the price got too high but who is thought to be maintaining an interest in the proceedings.

Rubin had reportedly contacted Warriors star Stephen Curry, who was raised in Charlotte and is a prominent fan of the Panthers, as well as rapper/entrepreneur Sean "Diddy" Combs about becoming part-owners in his bidding group.

Manning is a native of New Orleans who played in college at Tennessee before leading the Colts and Broncos to championships during a 17-year NFL career. He retired in 2016 after Denver's triumph in Super Bowl 50, in which the team defeated Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Since then, Manning has been seen frequently by football fans, but as a pitchman for a variety of companies.

In March, he was reported to have turned down lucrative offers from both "Monday Night Football" and "Thursday Night Football" to join their respective booths, with "MNF" subsequently luring former tight end Jason Witten away from the Cowboys.

The Panthers began play in 1995, after having been founded by North Carolina businessman and former Colts player Jerry Richardson. In December, he announced his intention to sell the team amid an investigation by the NFL into allegations of workplace misconduct.

Richardson's son Mark, a former president of the Panthers, has been a public supporter of Navarro's bid.