Jerry Richardson, the founder of the Carolina Panthers, died Wednesday night, the team announced. He was 86 years old.
Richardson, from Spring Home, North Carolina, was a standout football player at Wofford College and played for the Baltimore Colts from 1959 to 1960. He caught a touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas in the 1959 NFL Championship Game.
He would use his bonus money to buy the first Hardee’s franchise in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He co-founded Spartan Foods and became the CEO of Flagstar before retiring in 1995.
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He helped bring football to North Carolina in 1993 when the state received its 29th NFL franchise. The team would debut in 1995
«Jerry Richardson’s contributions to professional soccer in the Carolinas are historic,» current Panthers co-owners David and Nicole Tepper said in a statement. «With the arrival of the Panthers in 1995, he changed the landscape of sports in the region and gave NFL fans a team of their own.
«He was incredibly kind to me when I bought the kit, and for that I am grateful. Nicole and I extend our deepest condolences to Rosalind, the entire Richardson family and their loved ones. We wish them much peace and comfort.»
Richardson was considered to be one of the most powerful owners in the NFL with players like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots.
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In his Panthers obituary, he said he never thought about getting an NFL franchise, saying he was told the odds were low.
«I never thought about not getting a franchise,» he said. «The odds against us were huge. People were saying it was 150 to 1, 200 to 1. That never got me down.
«Did not pay attention. They told me I couldn’t get my company listed on the New York Stock Exchange before I was 40 years old. They told me, ‘You can’t make money selling hamburgers for 15 cents.’ They told me a lot of things.»
Richardson’s teams never won a Super Bowl, though they did make two appearances behind quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Cam Newton.
Richardson sold the team in 2018 after anonymous sources in a Sports Illustrated report accused him of making deals for inappropriate workplace conduct. David Tepper bought the team for $2.2 billion and Richardson would later be fined $2.75 million for the allegations.
In his post-Panthers life, Richardson would donate millions to Wofford College.
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He made a $150 million donation to his alma mater. According to the team, she netted more than a quarter of a billion dollars for the school.