A Buffalo Bills fan group uncovered documents that suggest a Toronto-based prospective ownership group has plans to relocate the franchise north of the border.
In a release issued Thursday, the Buffalo Fan Alliance identified several announcements referring to Rogers Communications consultant, Roger Rai, as part of the ownership group “attempting to acquire and move the Buffalo Bills to Toronto.”
Rai told The AP on Wednesday he’s not involved with the group’s ownership bid. He added the references connecting him to the proposed Bills’ purchase were “a mistake on my behalf,” and the result of a misinterpretation made by a co-worker who wrote the biography.
The alliance, made up of fans, former Bills players and business leaders, said the references made in the documents “would seem to cast further doubt on the credibility” of the Toronto group’s assurances to keep the Bills in Buffalo.
Rogers is part of a Bills’ prospective ownership group that includes rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
The Associated Press has verified the documents exist.
One of the references to Rai was included in an announcement issued in July by Marketwired, a Toronto-based press release distribution company. Another was included in Rai’s biography published in a public filing in January announcing a special meeting to approve Primary Petroleum’s merger with Keek Inc.
Rai is listed as Keek’s vice-president of business development. The announcements also to refer to Rai as someone who “assists in sports ownership affairs of Rogers Communications and was responsible for the acquisition of the Toronto Blue Jays,” which the company purchased in 2000.
Rai said he first became aware of the error when the reference was published in a release on July 8 announcing his appointment to Pinetree Capital’s board of directors. A day later, Marketwired issued an updated release removing any mention of Rai’s ties to Rogers, except that he held various managerial positions at the company.
The Bills are on the market after Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson died in March. And questions of the franchise’s long-term future in Buffalo have been an issue throughout the sale process.
Though a lease agreement essentially locks the Bills into playing at Ralph Wilson through the 2019 season, there is a one-year opt-out clause that would allow them to move in 2020.
Last month, Bon Jovi attempted to address questions regarding his ownership plans in a seven-paragraph letter published in The Buffalo News.
He wrote it was his objective “to carry on the legacy of Ralph Wilson and make the Bills successful in Buffalo.”
A person familiar with the sale process told The AP that the Toronto group attended a presentation on Tuesday during which Bills officials provided extensive financial and background information on the franchise. A second person said Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula attended a similar presentation on Wednesday.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale is private.
New York real estate mogul Donald Trump also attended a presentation last week.
The presentations are an opportunity for prospective ownership groups to gain information to prepare formal bids, which are expected to be submitted within three weeks.
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