Friday, January 9, 2009

Jerry Richardson


Richardson is the current majority owner of the Carolina Panthers, who are preparing to play their playoff game tomorrow against the Arizona Cardinals. Richardson has also been in the news a great deal recently, as he is awaiting a heart transplant. While this makes him a sympathetic figure, it is, of course, not what makes him a Hero of Capitalism.

Richardson is an atypical owner in the NFL. He is the only former NFL player who currently is the majority owner of a team. Richardson played for 2 years in the NFL, but after failing to reach an acceptable salary agreement with the Baltimore Colts, Richardson retired, rather than accept a salary below what he felt he was worth. He instead used the money he got from a playoff check (less than $5,000) to invest in the company of a former college football teammate. This company, Spartan Foods, opened the first Hardee’s franchise, and was the primary franchisee of the Hardee’s chain. With the tremendous success of this venture, Spartan Foods expanded into several other restaurant chains, including Quincy’s Steakhouse and Denny’s. Richardson himself took over the ailing Denny’s franchise in 1987, and restored that chain to prominence (OK, relative prominence), allowing it to become a moneymaker within 3 years.

Once Richardson had made his mark in the business world, he set out to bring football to the Carolinas. This has turned out to be another shrewd investment, as his initial buy in of $206 million in 1993 has netted him a franchise now estimated to be worth $1 billion. Richardson’s entrepreneurial spirit has had a major impact on the NFL as well. As the owner of the Panthers, Richardson first introduced the innovation of the personal seat license to the financing of new NFL venues. The PSL is an up-front charge for the right to purchase season tickets each year. These fees are huge revenue generators for the franchise, and allow many teams to finance the portion of new stadium costs that is not covered by local governments. They are hated by the average NFL fan, who is understandably reluctant to part with these significant sums of money, but the news is not all bad. Most Panthers’ PSLs have actually appreciated in value, so that many of those who have invested in these PSL can actually recoup this investment if they choose.

Many would describe Richardson’s rise from “humble beginnings” to his current position of wealth as the “American dream.” Here, we simply recognize that Richardson took a small amount of money, combined it with an entrepreneurial spirit and plenty of hard work to create a tremendous amount of wealth for himself and others. This, of course, makes him a Hero of Capitalism.

Richardson Bio

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