How Fracking Bought the Buffalo Bills
A victor has been crowned in the bidding war for the Buffalo Bills: Terry Pegula, an American businessman who made his fortune in fracking, has inked a deal to buy western New York's beloved sports team for close to $1 billion.
That's a hefty sum, and near the highest price ever paid to buy an NFL franchise—the $1.1 billion doled out for the sale of the Miami Dolphins in 2008.
The news, which was announced Tuesday afternoon, comes as a major relief for Buffalo sports fans. Why? Bills devotees see Pegula as the team's best chance to stay tethered to their city.
Fans had previously feared that if Bon Jovi, an early bidder in the sale, won the team, he would have moved the franchise to Toronto. (To protest the rock star's involvement in the sale, local radio stations, bars, and restaurants even stopped playing his songs.)
Pegula, meanwhile, has sunk millions of dollars into the western New York region and won favor with local politicians and area residents as a result.
In 2011, he snapped up the city's NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres, and is currently footing the bill for a massive sports complex under construction near the city's long-neglected waterfront.
He reassured Buffalo sports fans that he has no plans to take the teams elsewhere in a statement issued to announce the sale.
"Our interest in owning the Bills has everything to do with the people of Western New York and our passion for football," Pegula speaking on behalf of his wife Kim. "We have knowledgeable, dedicated fans here and along with our ownership of the Buffalo Sabres, it is gratifying to reassure these great fans that two franchises so important to our region are both here to stay."
All this creates a juxtaposition: Fracking money is spurring major investment in the Queen City, despite the fact that the controversial drilling technique is off-limits in New York state.
Pegula founded the natural-gas drilling company East Resources in 1983, and retains drilling rights for vast holdings of land in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
His net worth is estimated at $3.3 billion. To boost his chances of winning ownership of the Buffalo Bills, the billionaire sold off some of his natural-gas holdings to the tune of nearly $2 billion in August.
Pegula isn't shy about where his wealth comes from, either. After capturing the Sabres, he famously defended himself against charges that he planned to profit from the team, saying, "If I want to make some money, I'll go drill a gas well."
This post has been updated as details of the sale emerge.