Report: Panthers sale appears to be down to two bidders

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The sale of the Panthers appears to be in the final stretches, and one bidder presumed to be a favorite is reportedly out.

According to Ken Belson of the New York Times, Steelers minority owner David Tepper is out of the bidding to buy the team from Jerry Richardson.

Since Tepper had already been approved to join the club, his bid would have been fast-tracked by other owners if his was the bid chosen by Richardson. But recent reports suggested he wasn’t prepared to be the high bidder, or to approach others.

The $2.5 billion benchmark — which would set a record for an American sports franchise — was more than he was prepared to bid, according to the report, pegging his offer between $2.0 billion and $2.2 billion.

That leaves South Carolina financier Ben Navarro and Canadian steel magnate Alan Kestebaum. The report says Navarro is believed to have offered $2.6 billion, though there remain questions about the financing of his bid. Richardson’s going to take whichever offer he wants, though the sale would have to be approved by 24 of 32 owners.

The goal has been to wrap up the sale in the next few weeks, so owners could vote on the sale at the May meetings.