Contractor says Panthers should be on hook for failed Rock Hill facility
According to the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter, the fallout over the Panthers’ abandoned plans to build a new headquarters in Rock Hill continues. The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter reports new court documents showing a construction company suggests the team could be liable for tens of millions of dollars in debt related to the failed project. And several subcontractors also say they're owed money. For more, we turn now to the Ledger’s Tony Mecia for our segment Biz Worthy.
Marshall Terry: Tony, I want to get into the latest in just a moment. But first, can you give us a quick recap of what happened with this project in Rock Hill?
Tony Mecia: Sure, Marshall. You'll recall a few years ago the Panthers had an agreement with the state of South Carolina, York County and Rock Hill to build a headquarters and practice facility, a big site down there off of I-77. They started construction on it. They abruptly halted construction on it. This March said that the city of Rock Hill did not live up to its end of the bargain, and did not issue bonds that were needed to pay for infrastructure. And so since then, there's been a bunch of legal fallout. It's just, you know, it's partially built down there in Rock Hill and everybody's pointing fingers and their contractors that are, you know, haven't been paid. So, you know, the question is, how much do the Panthers and its owner, David Tepper, how much are they on the hook for those debts?
Terry: Ok, so this construction company is saying maybe the Panthers should be on the hook for some of the money lost over this failed project. And these subcontractors say they’re owed money. What’s the argument they’re making?
Mecia: Well, ordinarily, when you go into bankruptcy protection like this real estate arm has it's a real estate arm, you know, controlled by David Tepper, the owner of the Panthers. Real estate developers typically set up separate corporations. So, if things go south, they can contain the damage within that company and it won't spread to their other holdings. And so, this particular real estate entity controlled by David Tepper, it's called G.T. Real Estate Holdings. It filed for bankruptcy. Typically, in that situation, the creditors who are here are construction companies and wouldn't be able to go after the Panthers and David Tepper for that money. Recall that David Tepper is a billionaire, one of the NFL's richest owners with a net worth of an estimated $17 billion. But what the creditors here are saying are these contractors, subcontractors, they're roofers, plumbers, a bunch of Charlotte companies, incidentally. They're saying that because that real estate arm had a lot of overlapping financial arrangements and personnel with other David Tepper businesses, Tepper and the Panthers should be liable for those debts. And so that's what they're arguing about. There was a hearing yesterday in bankruptcy court where they hashed out some of these issues. And that's really sort of the big question is, are these construction companies, many of whom in the Charlotte area, are they going to get paid?
Terry: What’s been the response from Tepper?
Mecia: Well, you know, they say, well, it's an unfortunate series of events. They point the finger at Rock Hill for not living up to its end of the bargain. They say they've tried to make the creditors whole as much as they can, but that there's simply not enough money to be able to pay them all. And, you know, they say they've taken a number of steps, but that they're not going to be able to fund all of the debts that are out there. And they also point out that the Panthers put in a bunch of money that they're not going to see back either. So, it's not just that construction companies are losing money, but also the Panthers, as they say, have lost some money on this deal as well.
Terry: Alright, let’s move on to last week’s Supreme Court ruling on abortion. The Ledger reports the ruling’s aftermath is being felt in pharmacies around Charlotte. What can you tell us?
Mecia: Yeah. Several national news outlets. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported this week that there's been a run on emergency contraceptives. Plan B, these are pills that women take within a few days of sexual activity that prevent ovulation and prevent fertilization. There's been a run on some of those as abortion restrictions in a lot of states tighten up. And so, we sent a reporter around to some Charlotte area pharmacies to see, if can you still find these emergency contraceptives in Charlotte? There are still some on the shelves. Some had kind of run out, but they said they were getting more. Some online retailers are limiting purchases. So still some availability, but something to keep an eye on.
Terry: I want to end on a headline in the Ledger this week: Conventions mount a comeback. Hospitality was one of the hardest-hit sectors in Charlotte during the pandemic. So, are things back to where they were before Covid?
Mecia: They're just about there, Marshall, as you pointed out. Hospitality hit really hard. Restaurants, certainly hotels, you know, without business travel, you know, a lot of Charlotte hotels rely on business travelers when that wasn't happening. A lot of those beds were empty. Now they're filling up again. I talked to Tom Murray, the head of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. He told me that hotels are much more full now. They're booking so, so many more conventions, more than they did before COVID. Part of that is because they get. A lot of those conventions were postponed over the last couple of years in addition to attracting new business. So they say they're revving back up again. You know, they just finished a renovation of the convention center that's helping. So, you know, I went out there a couple of weeks ago, talked to some conventioneers. They said they are enjoying Charlotte.
Terry: That's Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.