After longtime Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died in late March, a series of rich white men have made their case to buy the Bills. The team is going on sale, and soon. The question is to whom.
Buffalo has often been the target of (unsubstantiated) relocation rumors, from Toronto to Los Angeles, and that fear of leaving has only increased with the coming sale of the team. While Wilson had a deep affection for keeping the Bills in Buffalo, a new owner might not. Of course, moving the team wouldn't be easy. The franchise signed a strict 10-year lease with the state and county in 2012 that keeps the Bills playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and even the consideration of a move would incur a $400 million penalty, according to the AP. But the team's status after that is more ambiguous, and dependent on who owns the team.
The sale process won't begin until his children sign up an investment banking firm to negotiate the deal, and executives expect the sale to take place sometime next spring. Whoever buys it will be vetted carefully and will have to be packing big bills; Forbes values the Bills at $870 million.
Here, then, is a rundown of all the people who have shown interest in purchasing the Bills, and their thoughts on relocation.
Who he is: The billionaire New York City real estate developer has his eyes on the Bills, sources told the AP and WGRZ-TV on Thursday. Milstein currently works as the chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority, but he has a history of interest in sports franchises. Milstein previously co-owned the NHL's New York Islanders from 1997-1999, and he has made failed bids to purchase both the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins.
Chance of relocation: Low. A source told WGRZ that Milstein would "definitely" keep the team in place, and Milstein's connections to New York and specifically governor Andrew Cuomo make him likely to stick around.
Who he is: Kelly is the former Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Bills to four straight Super Bowls in the '90s. He has stayed actively involved with the team since then, and various business people have approached Kelly recently to get him on board their potential ownership groups. "Jim is going to be an active participant in what is going on with the Bills," his brother Dan Kelly told The Buffalo News. He declined to specify who exactly had approached the former quarterback.
All this happens, however, as Kelly is fighting cancer for a second time. As The MMQB's Peter King detailed last month, the cancer began at his jaw and is moving toward his brain, and he has had to undergo aggressive chemotherapy and radiation to fight off the growth. Kelly is set to enter his second round of chemo, his wife announced on Instagram on Thursday.
Chance of relocation: Very low. Back in 2010, Jim Kelly told The Buffalo News that "I want to make sure [the team] does stay, and I’ll do whatever I can." That tune hasn't changed. "He’ll do everything in his power to keep the team in Buffalo," Dan Kelly said. "There’s no place like home, and for Jim, Buffalo is home."
Jon Bon Jovi
Who he is: The former rock frontman has dabbled in football ownership, as he previously held a majority role in the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul. Bon Jovi was linked to buying the Bills back when Wilson was still alive, and his interest has only increased since Wilson's death. "Jon remains passionate in his pursuit of an NFL franchise," his publicist emailed the Toronto Sun.
Chance of relocation: Medium. Bon Jovi has been informally linked to Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group, which owns the Maple Leafs and Raptors. A Bon Jovi-led purchase would likely have the intention of bringing the team to Toronto once the lease is up. He is the owner of Buffalo fans' nightmares.
Jeremy Jacobs (and family)
Who he is: Jeremy Jacobs Sr. owns the NHL's Boston Bruins, which due to NFL rules forbids him from also owning an NFL team in a separate market. But that rule does not apply to his son, Jeremy Jacobs Jr., a Buffalo native who is a principal of Buffalo-based service company Delaware North. "He is definitely a player," a source told the AP about the Jacobs family. The family certainly has enough money to purchase the Bills.
Chance of relocation: Very low. Jacobs the Younger has been adamant about fighting off vultures trying to move the team. "We are using our resources, our contacts, our relationships to do everything we can to ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo," he told The Buffalo News.
Who he is: A hair-wearing cyborg whose faulty programming keeps him from having sane or rational thoughts about his own limitations. He certainly has a history of football ownership, as the collapse of the would-be NFL rival USFL was almost entirely due to his bungling leadership. "People have actually talked to me about the Bills," Trump told Buffalo radio station WBEN, according to ESPN.com. "I mean, the group of people called me – would I be interested in investing, and I'll take a look at it." Trump's executive vice president assures he's serious. "We are all just waiting [on the sale]," Michael Cohen said, according to USA Today. "And Mr. Trump is at the top of that list." Like most things in Trump's life, the declaration is word-vomit with little intent behind it. David Roth at SB Nation appropriately skewers Trump and his Bills interest.
Chance of relocation: Zero. Trump is not buying the Bills. But in an alternative universe in which he did, they'd stay in Buffalo. "If it were me I'd keep the team in Buffalo," Trump said in that same radio interview. "I think it's something that is really vital to the area. ... It would be catastrophic, in my opinion, if Buffalo lost the Buffalo Bills." So there's that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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