Sources: Jon Bon Jovi Interested In Buying Bills, Rogers Communication Also In The Mix
Musician Jon Bon Jovi is "consumed with purchasing an NFL team," and is "among the parties positioning to purchase" the Bills when the team comes up for sale, according to sources cited by Jason La Canfora of CBSSPORTS.com. The Bills will go to the market when Owner Ralph Wilson passes, and many league sources believe that Rogers Communications, which already works "closely with the Wilson family to stage games annually in Toronto, is the prime suitor for the franchise." But sources said that Bon Jovi has "spent considerable time in the area getting to know politicians and power brokers and even added a date there late in a recent tour to allow for more time to allocate to the matter." Sources said that Bon Jovi is "aiming to be the principal owner," and has "aligned himself with several powerbrokers." Sources said that Bon Jovi "has major ties" to MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke and his daughter, and that they "could eventually align in pursuit of the Bills, with Bon Jovi the public face of the franchise." La Canfora noted the NFL has a "vested interest in keeping the Bills a regional team, for Western New York and Southern Ontario, and in most any scenario the team will continue sharing games to some degree with Toronto." If Rogers Communications was to "get the team and get a Super Bowl-quality stadium built in Canada, then undoubtedly the number of games played in Toronto would increase" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/24). Leiweke yesterday said, "Jon and I are very good friends. We talk weekly about his NFL ambitions. And so we're actively engaged, but I think it's still a work in progress." He added of MLSE, "We can't own a team (per NFL rules), but we do have more expertise on how to build (stadiums) than anyone" (TORONTO STAR, 11/25).
LIVIN' ON A PRAYER: The Bills in a statement yesterday said, "The organization does not respond to reports of the interest other parties may have in ownership of the franchise or of speculation concerning various groups that may have such interest." In Buffalo, Aaron Besecker notes Bills officials have stressed that Wilson "is committed to keeping the team in Buffalo." The Bills have a lease with Erie County and New York State for Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park that "started this season and extends through the 2022 season." The deal gives the county and state "nearly an ironclad guarantee that the Bills will remain here at least through 2019." If the team "wanted to break the lease before that season, it would have to pay" $400M (BUFFALO NEWS, 11/25).
BORN TO BE MY BABY: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes MLSE would "love to hitch its wagon to whichever individual or individuals manage to buy" the Bills. A source said that Leiweke and MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum are "so eager to get involved they reassigned one of their senior executives not long ago." MLSE Chief Facilities & Live Entertainment Officer Bob Hunter was "put in charge of two special projects." These projects are "so important to Tanenbaum and Leiweke" that former MLSE Dir of Events Justina Klein was "recently brought back for a second stint at MLSE to do Hunter's old job." Hunter is now in charge of "redesigning BMO Field to accommodate" both MLS Toronto FC and the CFL Toronto Argonauts. The second task is "to design an NFL-style stadium to accommodate the Bills." However, sources think that the "real player in this could be" Rogers Communication Deputy Chair Edward Rogers. Some sources see him "emerging as the majority owner in a bid with Tanenbaum and Bon Jovi, who is certainly handy as a front man for now" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/25). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes, "It's far too early to say that Toronto is getting an NFL franchise, but it can now be fairly said that Toronto has the inside track on one" (TORONTO STAR, 11/25).
THIS IS OUR HOUSE: Leiweke Friday touched on why he feels the NFL is a good fit in Toronto during his keynote address at an industry conference in Columbia, S.C. “The NFL game on Thursday night [Saints-Falcons] outdrew the NHL in Canada,” Leiweke said during the Sports Entertainment & Venues Tomorrow meeting. “Nothing outdraws the NHL in Canada, except [embattled Toronto Mayor] Rob Ford on the nightly news. Literally, that game had the highest rating Thursday night in all of Canada. They love the NFL up there. It’s unbelievable. Toronto is a vibrant, deep market. People talk about the great marketplaces in the world for live entertainment and sports. No. 1 gross in hockey, Toronto. Top 10 gross still today in the NBA, Toronto. Top five gross in Major League Soccer, Toronto. Music ... there’s the O2 in London, Madison Square Garden, maybe Staples Center and then Air Canada Centre, which had 60 shows last year, all sold out. There’s so much money up there. But we’ve got to find a stadium, got to find owners and got to find a team.” Considering yesterday's news that Leiweke's daughter is part of Bon Jovi’s group attempting to buy the Bills and move them to Toronto, Tim Leiweke refused to answer why the Bills have struggled over the years to sell tickets for their games at Rogers Centre. “I’m not going to talk about the Bills,” he said. “Just staying out of trouble. This is the last state of the union I haven’t got in trouble in ... South Carolina” (Don Muret, Staff Writer).