CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The reaction has been swift to NBC Charlotte's report that NASCAR CEO Brian France is a major player in a group interested in buying the Carolina Panthers.
While NASCAR denied the story, a spokesperson said Brian France would not speak directly with NBC Charlotte reporter Rad Berky or any other member of the media.
In Thursday morning's edition of the Washington Post, the Post reported that in 2005 Magic Johnson said he talked with France about joining forces to bring a pro football team to Los Angeles.
At the time, the Post said, France denied that report as well.
Three sources who don't want to be named but have direct knowledge of the talks, tell NBC Charlotte that France would lead a group of investors being put together by Felix Sabates, who is a minority owner of the Hornets NBA basketball team.
The group is now waiting to see if Richardson will put the team up for sale should the Panthers lose their playoff game Sunday against the Saints, or wait until after the Super Bowl next month.
During an interview on WBT Radio Thursday morning, Erik Spanberg from the Charlotte Business Journal talked about France and the Panthers, saying, “It does not sound far-fetched. He has the financial wherewithal and there have been rumors in the past of Brian France being interested in an NFL team.”
Brian France has been the CEO of NASCAR since taking over from his father in 2003.
Said Spanberg, “I think Forbes had the family valued for somewhere around $5.7 billion, so they could write the check.”
New last line: With just days to go before their first playoff game, Panther players said they would not let talk of a sale or anything else distract them.