Richard Thigpen has been fired after more than two decades as general counsel of the Carolina Panthers, Thigpen confirmed to the Observer Thursday morning.
Thigpen’s departure comes days after the $2.275 billion sale of the team to hedge fund manager David Tepper.
“It’s not uncommon for a new owner, whether it is a sports franchise or other business, to want his own legal team in place when he takes over,” Thigpen said. “Personal relationships are typically involved with legal (representatives) and owners.”
Thigpen is the second high-profile Panthers executive to leave the team as it changes ownership: On the same day Tepper’s deal closed, chief operating officer Tina Becker stepped down.
Their departures come on the heels of the conclusion of an investigation of former team owner Jerry Richardson, who was fined $2.75 million for multiple instances of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.
Sports Illustrated first reported the allegations in December, hours before Richardson announced his plans to sell the team.
Former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who led the investigation, found evidence that substantiated the claims of the former employees, who said Richardson made significant monetary settlements with them in exchange for their silence.
Thigpen declined to comment on his role in crafting the nondisclosure agreements with the former employees.
Thigpen joined the Panthers as assistant general counsel in July 1997 and was promoted to general counsel in May 1998. Before that, he worked in private practice for about 13 years.
Thigpen has played a significant role in shaping the trajectory of the Panthers’ business over the years, including negotiating with the city on renovations at Bank of America Stadium and working with lawmakers in Raleigh on tax relief for the team.
A representative for Tepper was not available to comment.