CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Companies linked to Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper are being sued for more than $21 million by York County over “improperly utilized” funds the South Carolina county spent toward building infrastructure around the site of what was supposed to be the team’s new headquarters -- a project that recently was terminated.
The city of Rock Hill, where the facility was being built, also was included in the suit along with Tepper’s Appaloosa Management LP, DT Sports Holding LLC and Tepper Sports Inc.
The suit, filed late Thursday, comes less than a month after the project was canceled and Tepper’s real estate company, GT Real Estate Holdings, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on the project, estimated to cost $800 million.
Tepper, the NFL’s richest owner, with a net worth of $16.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine, already had spent more than $175 million on the project on 240 acres in Rock Hill that was announced in 2019.
The project initially was paused on March 7 after Tepper’s companies alleged Rock Hill had not come up with the promised $225 million in bonds for infrastructure.
The lawsuit refers to the failed facility as a “vanity project.” It alleged that Tepper’s companies misappropriated the $21 million from Penny Tax revenue for the expansion of Mount Gallant road between Dave Lyle Boulevard and Anderson Road.
“Upon information and belief, none of the Penny Tax Funds went to its intended purpose,” the suit said.
The suit alleged York County had been “damaged” by the breakdown between Tepper’s company and Rock Hill.
“The Tepper Defendants directed the misappropriation of $21 million of statutorily restricted, public funds from their stated purpose, the expansion of a roadway in York County, and improperly utilized these funds on their failed vanity project, the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters and practice facility,” the suit stated. “Rather than cover the ballooning project budget themselves, the Tepper Defendants took money from York County and its taxpayers.”
For that, the county is seeking repayment of the $21 million plus interest, and other costs, including lost tax revenue and economic benefits, damages (actual, exemplary and punitive), increased construction costs and attorney's fees.
The Panthers did not immediately respond to requests for comments from Tepper or his management team.