ROCK HILL, S.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper’s real estate company wants to revoke a bankruptcy settlement it negotiated with the city and county where its abandoned South Carolina practice facility was supposed to be built because it says the governments are making exorbitant and unreasonable demands.
GT Real Estate Holdings had offered $21 million to York County. It suggested giving the proceeds from selling part of its site in Rock Hill so the city would get at least $20 million.
But the county and city have filed separate lawsuits and court papers. York County said it is entitled to more than $80 million in part to get back money from a special penny sales tax that was supposed to expand a road but Tepper’s company used for the proposed practice facility.
Rock Hill sued for $20 million it spent on the project and has asked the bankruptcy case be heard in South Carolina, where most of the people who lost money are located, instead of Delaware, where GT Real Estate Holdings is incorporated.
Tepper announced plans to build an $800 million practice facility in Rock Hill in 2019 to much fanfare, saying it would rival the NFL’s best — such as the Dallas Cowboys.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and state and local officials aggressively pursued the NFL owner to move the Panthers headquarters across the state line from North Carolina, where they would continue to play games in Charlotte.
Less than two years later, Tepper’s company halted work, saying Rock Hill and York County didn't fulfill financing and other obligations. Both the city and county have denied the allegations.
The latest proposal from Tepper’s company would lump the city and county in with most other contractors. GT Real Estate Holdings said that would allow those contractors to begin to make claims for their share of $60 million set aside for them in the bankruptcy settlement as soon as possible.
A full statement from GT Real Estate follows:
GTRE filed an amended Plan of Reorganization today to address the reactions of stakeholders to the original plan filed in August. GTRE’s original Plan of Reorganization would have paved the way for all creditors, including the City and County, to receive generous payouts on an expedited basis. Trade creditors have engaged constructively with GTRE, and their treatment under the amended Plan of Reorganization remains unchanged. Unfortunately, the City and County have instead chosen to pursue a flawed litigation strategy, making exorbitant and unreasonable demands well in excess of their entitlements. Under the amended Plan of Reorganization, the City and the County are treated similarly in accordance with their rights under the Bankruptcy Code and without the concessions that had been provided previously. These modifications are intended to prevent the City and County from causing further harm to the confirmation process and delaying payment of the $60.5 million that has been reserved to pay trade creditors.
In a statement shared with WCNC Charlotte on Wednesday, attorney Jordan Crapps representing York County fired back against GT Real Estate's claim that the county's demands are out of bounds, and that the company has walked back on previous commitments.
"York County is disappointed these parties again appear to be going back on their word. To be clear, the County has not engaged in any unreasonable conduct in regard to the Debtor," he said. "Rather, the County has only sought reasonable compensation for its real and legitimate claims and the damages GT Real Estate and the other Tepper entities have left in their wake. The County will continue to pursue its claims and aggressively protect its interests and the interests of its citizens and taxpayers.”
A spokesperson for the city of Rock Hill said they had no comment.
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Tax breaks from the state for the Panthers were based on the number of jobs created by the team, so South Carolina didn’t directly lose money on the project. The state did provide about $35 million to build an interchange on Interstate 77 near the facility and state officials said Tepper’s company continues to pay its share for that work.
“The only state money committed to this project has been invested in accelerating the construction of a new interchange in one of the fastest growing parts of the state,” governor's spokesman Brian Symmes said in a statement.
But state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, who has been a critic of the project since 2019, said last week on the Senate floor that the state “got suckered in by the lure of a football team and a billionaire.”
The Democrat asked McMaster to sue Tepper so he can’t make as much money off the land he still owns near the new interchange.
“He got hoodooed by this guy. He’s worth $16 billion. He’s obviously hoodooed a few people here and there. He took our governor for a ride,” Harpootlian said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report