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Only two bidders remain in the race to buy the Carolina Panthers, per report

David Tepper has stepped away from the bidding process, according to Ken Belson of The New York Times.

Update: David Tepper has denied reports that he is no longer in the running to buy the Panthers.

(h/t TXPanther)

According to a report from Ken Belson of The New York Times, the bidding for ownership of the Carolina Panthers is now down to two people as David Tepper has backed away from the table. Michael Rubin — owner of online sports retailer Fanatics — has also bowed out of the race.

David Tepper, the hedge-fund billionaire whom many [NFL] owners pointed to as the preferred choice to buy the team, has backed out of the auction for the club, according to two people with knowledge of his interest in the team.

Tepper’s departure comes a few weeks after Michael Rubin, the owner of the online retailing giant Fanatics, also bowed out. Both men balked at the asking price of at least $2.5 billion.

Their departures narrow the field to two for membership in the most exclusive and expensive owners club in North American sports: Ben Navarro, who owns Sherman Financial Group, an investment firm; and Alan Kestenbaum, the chief executive of Bedrock Industries, which owns and operates metal and mining companies.

According to several people familiar with the auction, Navarro is believed to have offered $2.6 billion, though it is unclear whether he needs the help of other investors to cover that price.

The NFL owners will hold their spring meetings from May 21-23 in Atlanta, and it’s starting to look like they will have a potential buyer to vote on by then. The league requires 24 of 32 owners (or 75%) to approve the sale.

Stay tuned to CSR as we’ll update this story with any new information whenever it becomes available.