CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bidding for the Carolina Panthers has reached a record $2.5 billion, according to Bloomberg.
That would set a record for the sale of a professional sports franchise in the United States. The Los Angeles Dodgers sold for $2 billion in 2012.
Sources close to the process could not confirm to ESPN.com that the $2.5 billion is accurate, however.
At least one candidate to purchase the team owned by Jerry Richardson currently is not willing to go that high, a source told ESPN.com.
Fanatics owner Michael Rubin is willing to go higher than his initial bid and remains interested at what he considers the right price, according to the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the bidding process is confidential.
The Panthers are valued by Forbes at $2.3 billion. It is unclear what Rubin considers the right price.
Rapper and mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry are among potential minority partners with Rubin. At this point, billionaire businessman Joseph Tsai is the only confirmed partner with Rubin, sources said.
A source also confirmed that Salisbury, North Carolina, native James Goodnight, the co-founder and CEO of the software company SAS, has shown interest in purchasing the Panthers. It is not clear whether Goodnight, valued by Forbes at $10 billion, has made a bid.
However, sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that initial bids have been put in by Rubin, Bedrock Industries LP chairman and CEO Alan Kestenbaum, Charleston, South Carolina, billionaire Ben Navarro and hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper.
The 55-year-old Kestenbaum, whose business focuses on owning and operating metals, mining and natural resources assets and companies, surfaced on Wednesday.
He is believed to have strong backing from Canadian businessman Jim Pattison, according to a source.
Bedrock Industries purchased Canadian steel company Stelco Inc., now known as Stelco Holdings Inc., last year.
Pattison, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $6.8 billion. The magazine did not list a net worth for Kestenbaum, but Stelco reportedly has a market value of about $1.3 billion.
Richardson, 81, announced in December plans to put the team up for sale amidst an NFL investigation into allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct.
He stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the organization after a Sports Illustrated article detailed the allegations. Tina Becker was named the chief operating officer.
After Richardson selects his choice for the winning bid, three-fourths of the 32 NFL owners have to approve the sale. The most likely timeframe for that, ESPN.com reported last month, is the May 21-23 meetings in Atlanta.