Judge approves loan between 2 Tepper companies to finance failed project’s bankruptcy

Jeff Siner/jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
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A federal judge has approved a proposed bankruptcy loan of $20 million from one David Tepper-owned company to another Tepper company to help finance bankruptcy linked to the Carolina Panthers failed headquarters project in Rock Hill, S.C.

Judge Karen Owens of the U.S. District Court in Delaware approved the financing loan Friday morning that will allow DT Sports Holding LLC to loan the money to GT Real Estate, court documents reviewed by McClatchy show.

The judge’s approval allows the money to be used for bankruptcy expenses such as legal fees, site security and other expenses. But the order does not address whether the South Carolina and North Carolina creditors who claim to have lost as much as $90 million will get paid as bankruptcy proceeds.

Included in that $90 million is $41 million in taxpayer dollars from the city of Rock Hill and York County, and tens of millions more that contractors claim to be owed.

David Tepper is the billionaire owner of the Carolina Panthers.

DT Sports Holding is described in testimony and court documents as the parent of GT Real estate.

GT Real Estate Holdings is the company Tepper created to be the owner and developer of the York County site that was to be the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters and practice facility. The project was hailed to include retail and offices and was predicted to be an economic boon for South Carolina and the region.

GT Real Estate declared bankruptcy June 1 . Construction stopped in March in a dispute between GT and the city of Rock Hill over financing.

At odds over money

The judge’s approval came after lawyers for Tepper’s companies and creditors argued Wednesday and Thursday in court hearings over whether the loan was an insider pitch.

Those against the loan argued it would give Tepper’s companies too much sway in handling claims for money from the failed project. A lawyer for the general contractor said in court hearings Thursday it is unknown if any creditors will recoup much if any money.

Court testimony and documents show that approximately $282 million was spent before the project halted. The Carolina Panthers spent $163 million in loans, and DT Sports spent another $60 million.

Future of Rock Hill site unknown

What will happen to the 240-acre York County site along Interstate 77 remains unknown.

Two real estate companies have sought information about the property, court documents and testimony show. GT Real Estate is “soliciting pitches” about the property, documents show.

The next hearing in the bankruptcy is scheduled for July 20 in Delaware bankruptcy court, court records show. Then on June 22, Owens will hear arguments from creditors who want the case moved to South Carolina.

The order also does not address a separate legal lawsuit claim by York County in South Carolina civil court that alleges a civil conspiracy among Tepper companies in the project. That lawsuit filed June 9 also alleges Rock Hill failed to get financing. Neither the Tepper companies nor Rock Hill have filed written responses to that lawsuit.