CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith said Tuesday in a radio interview that he’d be willing to buy the Carolina Panthers from owner Jerry Richardson -- and Smith said he wouldn’t make city or state taxpayers foot the bill for improvements at Bank of America Stadium.
Smith’s comments came near the end of an interview with WBT morning talk show host Keith Larson.
Larson said the interview was prompted by remarks he’d made Monday, referencing Smith’s threat to move Charlotte Motor Speedway out of Concord several years ago in a dispute with local officials over his plans to build a drag raceway there.
Smith finally got approval to build zMAX Dragway.
Larson had expressed skepticism on air over whether Smith really would have followed through with his threat, and Smith said Tuesday in the interview, “My intents was to relocate the speedway.”
Larson’s comments had come in light of negotiations between Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson and officials from both the City of Charlotte and the state, over Richardson’s plans to make about $300 million worth of improvements at the stadium. The Panthers’ owner wants local and state money to pay for a chunk of the project.
One background factor in the negotiations has been the possibility that the team could be sold to out-of-town ownership -- and possibly moved -- after Richardson’s death.
After discussing the negotiations with Cabarrus County and state officials over building the dragway and making infrastructure improvements at the speedway, Smith suddenly changed the subject with Larson near the end of the interview.
“What’s he going to do with the team?” Smith asked Larson, referring to Richardson and the Panthers.
Moments later, when Larson asked Smith if he would be interested in buying the team, the speedway owner answered, “Well, it depends. Do you think he is interesting in selling.
“If the price is right, I’d be interested.”
Then, apparently in a reference to a deal between Richardson and city officials that calls for a guarantee that the Panthers will remain in Charlotte at least 15 years, Smith said, “I would commit to the city -- and I would not ask for money.”
When asked by Larson to repeat what he’d said about funding for stadium improvements, Smith said, “I would not ask for money.”
For the record, Smith said there have been no talks between he and the Panthers.
“I have not approached him,” Smith said of Richardson.
You can hear the entire interview here.