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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ben Navarro lives in Charleston, South Carolina, on Broad Street, which personifies the aristocracy of the old South with its historic architecture and history amid a canopy of moss-filled oak trees. Yet there’s little to nothing that appears privileged or noble about this 54-year-old man who grew up in the middle-class Northeast United States and is described by many friends as blue collar.

He often rides his bicycle to Sherman Financial Group, the global diversified investment services company he brought to this famous port city 15 years ago when he moved his family south seeking a better quality of life. He sometimes bikes 120 miles or more at a time for recreation.

He shows up at board meetings wearing a polo shirt and sports jacket. He wears khaki shorts and flip-flops sometimes to one of his Meeting Street Schools, a public-private project he launched in 2008 to improve the quality of education in South Carolina and help give under-privileged kids a chance to go to college no matter their zip code.

He’s the son of Frank Navarro, a college football coach who once posed for a Norman Rockwell painting called “The Recruit.” He’s one of eight siblings who put themselves through college.

He has an estimated worth of about $3 billion.

And if all goes as he hopes, Navarro will be the next owner of the Carolina Panthers. He’s one of three known bidders with an unknown fourth also in the running.

There have been questions about whether Navarro can get the required 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners to approve him because a small portion of his business deals with debt collection. But more than 90 percent of Sherman Financial’s revenue comes from Credit One Bank, one of the nation’s largest credit card issuers.


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