By Isabel Rodgers
PITTSBURGH – Hedge fund manager David Tepper broke records last month when buying the Carolina Panthers for $2.2 billion, the highest amount ever paid for an NFL franchise.
The new Panthers owner reflected on his family life, professional development and philanthropic philosophy in delivering the commencement address at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University.
Tepper encouraged students to consider gratitude, a value he learned facing challenges as a father and son.
Presented with serious family difficulties throughout his childhood, Tepper understands the value of recognizing gratitude. In an emotional confession to the audience, Tepper stated he experienced physical abuse from his father growing up. However, Tepper looks beyond, finding his own sense of kindness. He states his greatest accomplishment in life is breaking his family’s cycle of physical abuse by being the father he hoped to be as a child.
Tepper highlighted the importance of a strong work ethic, a skill he further developed through his academic and professional experiences.
Growing up in a working-class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Tepper understood the need to work for a college education. He applied to McDonald’s and was later rejected, he worked as a short-order cook deli, he sold knives door-to-door and worked as a union worker in a bakery. These jobs and his position at the campus library allowed him to graduate from University of Pittsburgh with an economics degree.
Tepper then worked at a bank, unsuccessfully applied to Goldman Sachs and ended up working at Republic Steel after receiving his degree. Tepper said he learned the most when the steel company was going under. This experience got him a job at a mutual fund specializing in distressed companies, and later in the door of Goldman Sachs, where he quickly advanced.
Tepper founded American hedge fund Appaloosa Management in 1993, recognizing and understanding the work ethic that eventually led him to succeed.
Tepper advocates the importance of giving, a philosophy that he learned from his father. Working 60 hours a week to make ends meet, Tepper’s father supported his family while maintaining his devotion to philanthropy.
In his commencement address, Tepper said his father “gave even when his family didn’t have enough.” He followed this practice throughout his early years, and continues to follow the philosophy today.
Tepper gives to those less fortunate today, taking advantage of his $11 billion economic privilege. His philanthropic focuses include education, hunger and poverty, giving hundreds of millions away to various charities.
Tepper highlighted qualities that Carolinians can expect him to maintain as owner of the Carolina Panthers throughout his address. As a family man, businessman, and philanthropist who has overcome extraordinary challenges earning every dimension of his success, we can expect Tepper to bring a profound sense of commitment, progress and heart to the Carolinas.