Two weeks ago, my news outlet exclusively reported on some serious issues plaguing a controversial crony capitalist agreement between the National Football League (NFL)’s Carolina Panthers and the state of South Carolina.
As I noted in my post, the franchise abruptly abandoned negotiations with governor Henry McMaster’s administration last month – leaving a 2019 agreement to relocate its new corporate headquarters and practice facility in limbo.
According to my sources, liberal billionaire David Tepper’s announcement that construction on this massive project was on hold came less than twenty-four hours after McMaster’s commerce secretary – Harry Lightsey – was scheduled to meet with team leaders to address their concerns about the project.
Tepper bailed on that meeting, though …
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“Last month’s ‘pause’ of construction on the project is looking more permanent by the day,” I noted at the time.
Problems between the Panthers and South Carolina – specifically the city of Rock Hill, S.C. – are nothing new.
This news outlet reported on issues with this deal last spring – including the purported inability of Rock Hill to meet its obligations to the franchise.
“The municipality is apparently unable to borrow the money it promised toward Tepper’s command economic boondoggle in York county – further pushing back the time frame of the oft-delayed project,” I noted in a report filed on May 14, 2021.
Well, this week the plug on the project was finally pulled …
“We have sent notices to (Rock Hill) to formally terminate the previous agreements,” a spokesperson for one of Tepper’s business holdings told McClatchy reporters on Tuesday. “Accordingly, we are prepared to sit down with the City and other interested parties to discuss the significant challenges ahead.”
Interesting negotiating strategy, huh?
Sources familiar with the back-and-forth between Tepper and South Carolina leaders at the city, county and state level have described the situation as “hopeless.”
Now the only question is this: How much of a loss are South Carolina taxpayers going to be stuck with?
In addition to more than a quarter of a billion dollars in local incentives, taxpayers all over the state are shelling out at least $160 million on the Panthers deal – which was pushed by McMaster and other “Republican” politicians back in 2019. The state money is earmarked for income tax credits and infrastructure “enhancements.” Meanwhile, York County is extending a “fee in lieu of tax – or “FILOT” – agreement with the Panthers that will cut the tax rate on this property to four percent over the next four decades.
Luckily, most of the state investment was contingent on the facility being built … but it’s unclear how.
From the very beginning of this debate, I staunchly opposed the Panthers’ multi-million dollar handout – arguing it was definitional crony capitalism.
“This is a bad deal. Period,” I wrote in March of 2019. “South Carolina should pass on the Panthers … and tell Tepper that while he is welcome to locate in the Palmetto State, he is not going to get paid to bring (his team) here.”
Incidentally, the Panthers have posted an anemic 15-33 record since getting their handout from the Palmetto State – and the team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017 (a Wild Card loss to the New Orleans Saints).
Talk about a terrible return on investment … although as I have repeatedly stated, the real losers on crony capitalist giveaways like this one are taxpayers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass player and a dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (but he gave them up for Lent this year).
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