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Timetable For a Bills Sale


(WBEN/AP) The timetable is murky, but one thing remains clear.  The Buffalo Bills will be sold soon and several deadlines in July suggest that things could be gearing up, as early as this week. 

Here's some of the hints of a private  timetable, emerging publicly in short bursts recently: 

  How would the deal shake out? 

Experts Weigh In.....

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Dan Kaplan, NFL Writer &Finance Editor, Sports Business Journal

Marc Ganis, Pres., Sports Corp., a consultancy

Adam Benigni, Sports Director, WGRZ Channel 2 News 
  • Last week, US Senator Charles Schumer suggested that bids could begin to be evaluated this week, although a spokesperson later clarified those statements saying that the bidders could possibly begin the process now, looking at confidential reports on the team's finances to prepare a bid.
  • Earlier this year, sources who spoke about the process suggested the the Bills' could be sold by July, and the sale approved by NFL owners as early as the league's meetings in October. The same person and another person also told the AP that at least one prospective ownership group has already toured potential new stadium locations in Buffalo.
  • Stadium consultant AECOM hired by New York State is expected to have it's final report due by July 11, after starting site visits two months earlier.
  Here's a list of the likely suspects.

- Rock star Jon Bon Jovi has expressed interest in buying any available NFL team, and the Toronto Sun reports he is preparing a bid, possibly in conjuction with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization .

-California-based bond fund manager Jeffrey Gundlach expressed interest in buying the Bills three years ago. Gundlach, who founded DoubleLine Capital, is a Bills fan and has ties to Buffalo.

-Former Sabres Owner B. Tom Golisano, in a speech before a Rochester-area high school confirmed that he would be interested in buying the team,saying "If it costs way more than I'm willing to pay, then I won't feel bad if I don't get them. I'll only feel bad if they move out of Western New York."

Bills' Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly has made no secret that he has put together a group of investors to buy the team. Kelly's health, however, has become an issue. The 54-year-old is undergoing  chemotherapy and radiation treatment following a recurrence of cancer.

-C. Dean Metropoulous, the Pabst Beer mogul who resurrected Hostess Twinkies out of bankruptcy, has said through a spokesperson that he is interested in purchasing whatever teams become available for sale.

- Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula. Sources have indicated that Pegula is considering a bid, and he has restructured his sports and entertainment holdings under one group .

- Two Toronto-based groups - Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment and Rogers Communications - have been mentioned.  Maple Leaf Sports owner Larry Tennenbaum could be preparing a bid on his own, but is also said to be working with Bon Jovi.

- Real estate mogul Donald Trump, told WBEN shortly after the death of Bills owner Ralph Wilson that " A group of people called me and asked 'would I be interested in investing', and I'll take a look at it." Trump is close to Jim Kelly and suggested that he would be joining someone's bid rather than perhaps submitting one of his own. 

- Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs or his immediate family  have counted themselves out, saying they would like to be involved in a stadium development deal, but will not have an ownership stake, something that would require him to divest his holdings ion the NHL's Boston Bruins.  NFL rules bar owners from running sports teams in separate markets, meaning Jacobs would either have to give up his holdings in the Bruins or, perhaps, have members of his family run the Bills.

The apparent next step is for all the interested parties to get a confidential look at the financial books-- so any bid they do submit-- is somehow related to what the team is worth.   In May, the team hired investments bank Morgan Stanley and law firm Proskauer Rose to serve as financial and legal advisers to the sale.

After bids are submitted, then Morgan Stanley will help to winnow the submissions down to a final three who will actually bid against each other.

The Bills were valued by Forbes last year at $870 million, but the sale price could go higher given the number of expected bidders and the scarcity of NFL teams on the market.

"(The) investment bank they choose will be doing the valuation of the determination of the value of the team on the date of Mr. Wilson's death for tax purposes," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said recently in an interview with WGR 550. .

"They'll be looking at prospective owners, doing research on them. It's going to take some time," he said.

Poloncarz expects the sale to be completed by next spring.

"Theoretically it could be done by the end of the year. I think basically the beginning of next year is a better timeline," he said. "But by this time next year, I fully expect a new owner to be in place and we'll be having discussions with that new owner about not just [the remaining years] in this current lease but a more substantial, longer lease thereafter


Poloncarz cautions that the process could take a while:

"I want people to think about this: When you put a bid in on a house and you sign a contract to purchase a house, it still takes a number of months for you to close the house sale," Poloncarz said.

"Think about how long it takes to close the sale of a business that's worth potentially a billion dollars. All of that has to be done. It's going to take some time. So I think people just need to relax, realize that there are people who are watching out for their best interests, to keep the team in town."

Poloncarz says there are parties -- both locally and from outside the area -- that are interested in keeping the team in Buffalo.

"There's a lot of interest, of course, in this team. There's interest from people who want to purchase the team and keep it in Buffalo. It's not as if there's no one there, there's no white knight that wants to purchase the team and keep it in Buffalo. There's a number of parties that do," he explained.

"I can tell you, there are people who want to purchase this team from outside this area who really don't have a connection with the Buffalo area but understand the value that the Buffalo Bills bring. And they've told me at least, personally, they're committed to keeping this team here, not only during the life of this current lease, but thereafter, because they understand the value that that team brings."

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