SBD/August 4, 2014/Franchises

Bon Jovi-Led Toronto Group Admits Its Chances Of Winning Bid For Bills Are "Slim"

Bon Jovi (r) declared his commitment to keeping the Bills in Western New York
The Toronto-based group bidding on the Bills, led by Jon Bon Jovi, "realize their chances of winning are 'slim,'" according to a source cited by John Kryk of QMI AGENCY. The belief inside the Toronto group, and "by many in the financial community," is that Sabres Owner Terry Pegula is "probably uncatchable by the Toronto trio." If not "by all other bidders." The source said that Pegula "submitted a daunting (albeit non-binding) first bid last Tuesday, perhaps as much" as $400M more than the Toronto group's bid. A different source on Thursday said that the Toronto group's first bid "was surprisingly low -- appreciably below" $1B. The Toronto group "cannot ultimately bid as high" as the $1.3B Pegula is reported to have submitted in Tuesday's first round (QMI AGENCY, 8/3).

NEVER SAY GOODBYE: In Buffalo, Tim Graham noted Bon Jovi, facing "credibility issues over his intentions" for the Bills, has "emerged to declare his group's commitment to keeping the team in Western New York." Bon Jovi "broke his silence in a letter provided exclusively to The Buffalo News." He wrote the purpose of the letter was "to clarify our intentions to the fans of the team and people of Buffalo." Bon Jovi in the letter, titled "Why We're Bidding on the Buffalo Bills," emphasized that his objective "would be to keep the Bills in Western New York by building a 'state-of-the-art NFL stadium for the loyal Bills fans' and honoring the legacy" of late Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. Bon Jovi wrote, "I know how much the Bills mean to the people of this region. So I want you to hear this from me: I’m not risking it all to let you down." Bon Jovi’s letter "left many questions unanswered while declaring his love for football and his appreciation for Bills fans." Bon Jovi "did not reveal any specifics about his group or indicate how high it can bid before he would need to sacrifice controlling ownership." He wrote, "My family and I are prepared to make this life-changing commitment to be part of the Bills. This is not a hobby or an acquisition. Building a winner on and off the field will be job one and I intend to spend as much time on the ground in Buffalo as needed to accomplish that goal" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/3). In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the Buffalo Fan Alliance said it is "highly skeptical of the Bon Jovi group's intentions." The group in a statement wrote, "Nowhere in his letter does he write or directly state or legally commit his group to 'not moving the Bills from Buffalo'" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/4). Pro Football HOF President & Exec Dir David Baker said when Bon Jovi was co-Owner of the AFL Philadelphia Soul, "He was a great owner, a great marketer, a great businessman." Baker added, "You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. By the time I go through with it, I looked at him as a businessman and not a singer" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 8/3).

OTHER PLAYERS REMAIN IN THE HUNT: In N.Y., Kosman & Weiss cited sources as saying that former Sabres Owner Tom Golisano is "about to enter the race to buy" the Bills. Sources said that he "plans to make an offer early" this week. Golisano would be the "fourth bidder" for the team. The sources added that the Wilson estate "wants to create more competition and will welcome a Golisano bid even though it will arrive up to six days after the deadline" (N.Y. POST, 8/2). In Buffalo, Jerry Zremski cites a source as saying that Golisano "continues to monitor the process and will decide soon what bid -- if any -- to submit." On top of that, other bids "already could have been submitted, or may still be coming, from prospective owners who are respecting the NFL's penchant for secrecy." But Vanderbilt Univ. sports economics professor John Vrooman said that it is "highly unlikely that there will be a large number of bids." Sources said that while Pegula and the Toronto group "appeared to be the early front-runners to some experts, they stressed that other, unknown bidders could still submit serious offers." Sports industry experts are "reluctant" to name a front-runner, but "some tend to discount" Donald Trump's bid. Vrooman views the Pegulas and the Toronto group, which includes MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum, as "the most serious players at this point" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/3). NBC's Al Michaels said he spoke with Trump yesterday, and Trump "said he offered $1 billion, all cash, no contingencies, immediate closing. He'd have the check in one hour the other day and was a little miffed that it went out for bid again" ("Giants-Bills," NBC, 8/3). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday said of the Bills sale process, "I will be getting an update next week. But we've obviously had first bids that were submitted this week. They are moving into the second phase, exchanging more information with all of the candidates. I do not know how many people remain in that process. That's not something I may ever know. It seems like it's proceeding on a normal basis" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/2).
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