BUFFALO, N.Y. – Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is prepared to make a bid to buy the Buffalo Bills. Donald Trump’s on board, too.
Don’t discount the family of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. And include New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi’s name for added spice.
It’s not every day — or every year — an NFL franchise goes on the market as the Bills are, following owner Ralph Wilson’s death last month.
Wilson’s wishes to have the team sold rather than passed on to his family raise the possibility of the Bills relocating from the city that’s been home for more than 50 years. Toronto and Los Angeles are potential landing spots because owners would have an opportunity to make more money than in Buffalo, the NFL’s second-smallest market.
Prospective owners are already lining up or, at the very least, expressing interest.
Without providing names, Erie County deputy executive Richard Tobe said he has been approached by as many as 10 prospective ownership groups, which he has told to contact the team.
The Bills were valued by Forbes last year at $870 million, but the sale price could go higher given the number of expected bidders and the scarcity of NFL teams on the market.
The formal bidding process won’t begin until Wilson’s estate appoints an investment banking firm to put an updated value on the franchise and oversee negotiations.
“We are all just waiting,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s executive vice-president, said this week. “And Mr. Trump is at the top of that list.”
Cohen said Trump, the New York City real estate mogul and reality TV star, has already contacted the NFL, Wilson’s estate and several league owners.
“There’s nobody more serious than Donald Trump,” Cohen said, reiterating a point Trump made in tweets last week. “Donald Trump has made it crystal clear that the Bills will remain in Buffalo.”
Dan Kelly, vice-president of Jim Kelly Inc., told The Associated Press last week that his brother will pursue the Bills.
“Jim will be an active participant in it moving forward,” Kelly said, noting that his brother will pursue the Bills despite undergoing treatments for a recurrence of sinus cancer.
The Jacobs family name also keeps coming up, according to several people familiar with the process.
“He is definitely a player,” one person told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because Jacobs has not revealed his plans.
Last week, Jeremy Jacobs Sr. released a statement saying he has no intention of selling the Bruins in order to purchase the Bills, a move that would be required because NFL rules do not allow owners to control major sports franchises in separate markets. But Jacobs’ statement did not address whether his sons would be involved in an ownership group.
Jacobs is from Buffalo, and his three sons, Jeremy Jr., Lou and Charlie, are principals of Buffalo-based Delaware North food service company. Charlie Jacobs is also a principal of the Bruins.
Then there’s Bon Jovi, who is linked to Larry Tanenbaum, a Toronto-based developer and chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which controls the NBA Raptors and NHL Maple Leafs.
Though Bon Jovi and Tanenbaum have close ties, no formal relationship has been made between the two involving a potential purchase of the Bills and relocating them to Toronto.
Bon Jovi’s representative, Ken Sunshine, said, “Jon is passionate about owning an NFL team,” but steered clear of any mention of the Bills.
There are major obstacles standing in the way of the team relocating during the term of the 10-year lease it reached with the state and county in December 2012.
The Bills would incur a $400 million penalty by even broaching the prospect of moving during the lease’s term. There is a one-time exception that would allow the Bills to break the lease for just under $28.4 million in July 2020.
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