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Tepper expects to change atmosphere

New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper wants to create a more open "family" atmosphere in the wake of the troubles that surrounded previous owner Jerry Richardson.

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Tepper addressed this topic, the Richardson statue outside Bank of America Stadium and the team's coaching staff during Tuesday's introductory press conference with reporters.

"I like to have an open environment. Where everybody feels safe like a family," said Tepper, the founder of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, based in Miami Beach, Fla. He paid $2.275 billion for the right to own the team.

The Panthers came under fire in December when Sports Illustrated published a report alleging that Richardson was accused of racial and sexual harassment. The 81-year-old Richardson, who elected to sell the team amid a league investigation, was fined $2.75 million by the NFL on June 28.

Tepper said on Tuesday that he was "contractually obligated" to leave the 13-foot bronze statue of Richardson outside of Bank of American Stadium.

The 60-year-old Tepper praised the coaching staff, namely head coach Ron Rivera, who has guided the Panthers to a 64-47-1 record and four postseason appearances in seven years. Carolina also won the NFC South in 2013-15 and advanced to the Super Bowl in 2015.

"You're actually blessed with a pretty good football side here," Tepper said. "A head coach who kind of understands and understands himself.

"... Ron is a natural defensive guy, OK, just natural. I mean, natural like walking down the street and drinking water, natural. So, I think you got to appreciate you got a guy understands that he wants to have the strength of the organization and bringing good people to do that. That's important, so I think that's kind of the things you like to see."

Norv Turner replaced Mike Shula as the team's offensive coordinator while Eric Washington is now the defensive coordinator after Steve Wilks accepted the head coaching position with the Arizona Cardinals.

"I appreciate some of the changes that were made on that staff," Tepper said. "I thought Norv is a pretty good addition on the offensive side."

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