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AP Sources: Golisano Expresses Plans to Buy Bills

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP/WBEN) - Former Sabres owner Tom Golisano has met with Buffalo Bills officials and public leaders, and informed them of his interest in purchasing the franchise, said people involved with the negotiations.

One person said Wednesday that Golisano has also had talks with developer Scott Congel to be his partner in the potential ownership group. The person added that Golisano's proposal will include building a new football stadium at the former Seneca Mall site, about a 10-minute drive from the Bills current home, Ralph Wilson Stadium. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because Golisano has not publicly announced his plans.

West Seneca Supervisor Sheila Meegan tells WBEN Pyramid and the town have been working on developing the site over the years, but a stadium was never discussed.

The land where the proposed stadium would be built belongs to Pyramid Management Group, which is owned by Robert Congel, Scott's father. The Syracuse-based company is one of the largest shopping mall developers in the northeast.

A person at Golisano's office told the AP Wednesday that he has no comment regarding the Bills. Golisano also failed to return a message left on his cellphone.

The Bills are on the market after the team's Hall of Fame owner and founder, Ralph Wilson, died in March. Wilson's estate hired an attorneys and an investment banking firm last week to oversee the sale. They are expected to begin contacting prospective ownership groups by the end of next month.

A new owner could be identified by as early as the end of July. The new owner would require approval from 24 of the NFL's 31 owners.

New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump has already announced his interest in buying the team. Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly has also said he has had talks to partner with numerous ownership groups.

Golisano's entry into the bidding process does not come as a surprise.

He first discussed the possibility of buying the Bills not long after purchasing the Sabres out of bankruptcy in 2004. Golisano said he would especially become involved in an ownership group if there were any fears of the team relocating.

The person added that Golisano's proposal will include building a new football stadium south of Buffalo. The land belongs to Pyramid Management Group, which is owned by Robert Congel, Scott's father. That could be the former Seneca Mall site, currently home to Tops and KMart stores. The Syracuse-based company is one of the largest shopping mall developers in the northeast.

Golisano's name has been brought up in recent weeks.

At a news conference announcing his sale of the Sabres in February of 2011, Golisano was asked about possible interest in the Bills. "Would I be interested in the Bills? I think the key issue would be the level of concern I would have about them leaving the community," Golisano said. "The higher the concern, the more interest I would have."

"If there were people here in the community that had the wherewithal and the desire to take over the team, and didn't need what I have to offer, I'd say that would be great, I would be happy."

In the years since he sold the Sabres to Terry Pegula, Golisano has been criticized by some fans who accuse him of cutting costs and being stingy with the team. Former Erie County Democratic Chairman and friend of Golisano, Steve Pigeon, says those criticisms are misguided. "So many people forget that the team was in bankruptcy, and was going to move out of Buffalo," Pigeon said. "I went to him and said... why don't you take a look at this? He saved that team from moving when previously he had no interest in being a sports owner, and looking back, those were pretty good years."

Pigeon says it would be foolish for Bills fans to not be welcoming of Golisano.

Wilson's death has raised concerns about the franchise's long-term future because of the possibility the team could be sold and eventually relocated to a more prosperous market such as Toronto.

Golisano sold the Sabres in 2011. Later that year, he became involved in a group that failed in a bid to purchase the Major League Baseball Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 72-year-old Golisano made his fortune founding Rochester-based Paychex, a payroll processing firm. His net worth was most recently estimated by Forbes to be at about $2 billion. He's from Rochester, but now makes his home in Florida.

He came to prominence in New York in the late 1990s, when he made three unsuccessful gubernatorial runs.

Congel was previously a principal at Pyramid. He has most recently run into difficulties attempting to redevelop the Medley Centre mall outside of Rochester. The mall is now vacant.

Earlier this month, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Monroe County officials voted to declare that Congel was in default of his tax deal by failing to invest at least $165 million to redevelop the property.

Pyramid's holdings, by comparison, have been lucrative with the company estimated to bring in estimated $5 billion in annual revenue from its 17 properties.

The company's holdings include what's called "The Shops at West Seneca," where Golisano and Congel are proposing to build a new stadium.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said a new stadium would be the next step in securing the team's long-term future.

New York state has also hired an architectural and design firm to identify between three or four sites across the region that could serve as the team's new home.

The Bills are essentially locked into playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the end of the 2019 season under the terms of the lease the franchise reached with the state and county in December 2012.



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Locations : BuffaloNew YorkRochesterSyracuse
People : Robert CongelScott CongelTom Golisano
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