Fourth candidate emerges as initial bids for Panthers are in

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Initial bids for the purchase of the Carolina Panthers have been made with a fourth candidate emerging, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com.

The newest candidate is 55-year-old Alan Kestenbaum, the CEO and chairman of Bedrock Industries LP, which focuses on the ownership and operation of metals, mining and natural-resources assets and companies.

Kestenbaum, whose interest in the team first was reported by the Charlotte Observer, is believed to have strong backing from Canadian businessman Jim Pattison, the source said.

Bedrock Industries last year purchased Canadian steel company Stelco Inc., now known as Stelco Holdings Inc.

Pattison, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $6.8 billion. The magazine did not list a net worth for Kestenbaum, but Stelco reportedly has a market value of about $1.3 billion.

Neither Kestenbaum nor Pattison could be reached for comment. All bids are confidential, and the starting bid in a process that typically involves multiple rounds of bids is not known.

The Panthers are valued by Forbes at $2.3 billion.

Other known bidders for the team Jerry Richardson put up for sale following the season include Charleston, South Carolina, billionaire Ben Navarro, hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper and Michael Rubin of the sports-merchandise giant Fanatics.

After Richardson selects his choice for the winning bid, three-fourths of the 32 NFL owners must approve the sale. The most likely scenario for that, ESPN.com first reported last month, is the May 21-23 meetings in Atlanta.

Richardson, 81, announced in December plans to put the team up for sale amid an NFL investigation into allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct. The team founder stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the franchise after a Sports Illustrated article detailed the allegations and named Tina Becker chief operating officer.