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Panthers leaving Charlotte? It could happen.

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CHARLOTTE, NC (Erik Spanberg/Charlotte Business Journal) -

To some community leaders in Charlotte, finding $100 million or more for an NFL stadium makeover could soon look more attractive than it does today.

The imminent negotiations with the Carolina Panthers over potential public investment become more sobering when Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan assesses the national landscape.

Consider: Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is 76, he fired his sons as team executives three years ago and he has yet to publicly disclose a succession plan several years after having heart-transplant surgery.

He also owns privately built Bank of America Stadium and could leave town with minimal headaches, unencumbered by lease terms with the city.

And Los Angeles wants one, if not two, NFL franchises for a planned downtown stadium.

The NFL has not signaled any intent to add teams, meaning Los Angeles would need to find one, if not two, franchises willing to relocate.

Add it all up, Morgan says, and "that reality scares the hell out of me. It's sobering."

This sentiment arises just two weeks after Morgan and the chamber took 100 business and political leaders to New York for a pre-Hurricane Sandy visit to New York that included remarks from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a private tour of the $1.6 billion MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Richardson flew in to introduce New York Giants owner John Mara, whose franchise shares the 82,000-seat New Jersey stadium with the New York Jets. All of which delivered a less-than-subtle message to Charlotte power brokers that the Panthers expect some support for their renovations.

The Los Angeles scenario looks to be more than just idle worry.

National and local sources say Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa directly or indirectly made overtures to the Panthers and Richardson during the Democratic National Convention in September.

President Obama was scheduled to speak at the Panthers' Bank of America Stadium to close the convention, but weather forced the event to be relocated. Villaraigosa served as convention chairman in Charlotte.

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