Exclusive: Bills reach out to prospective bidders, are officially on sale
The Buffalo Bills are officially on the market and the price probably will be in the neighbourhood of $1 billion. (Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports/Files)
The Buffalo Bills are officially on the market.
QMI Agency has learned that on Wednesday the NFL club finally kicked off the bidding process by mailing to prospective buyers both a non-disclosure agreement from law firm Proskauer Rose and a teaser sale document, according to a source involved in the process who requested anonymity.
Those who have expressed an intention to bid on the Bills, and perhaps others as identified by the Bills' investment banker Morgan Stanley, on Wednesday received a seven-page non-disclosure agreement (NDA), the source said.
Such bidders must sign the NDA in order to receive the "offering memorandum," or sale book.
That document, which presumably is now ready to be shared, will contain the confidential summary information regarding the Bills franchise and the NFL -- most importantly financials such as revenues, assets, operational costs, prospects of future revenue and liabilities.
The four-person trust overseeing the sale of the Bills last month hired both Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose as the transaction team to conduct the process. In announcing as much on May 21, the Bills said in a statement "it is anticipated that the transaction team will begin contacting prospective buyers within the next 30 days."
Wednesday was Day 28 after that announcement.
So who are the bidders that received the above documents on Wednesday?
Likely Tom Golisano, Donald Trump, Terry Pegula and the Toronto group that includes rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Probably other prospective bidders -- unidentified as yet publicly -- received the documents as well.
Golisano on Thursday was unavailable to comment. Spokespersons for Trump and Bon Jovi would neither confirm nor deny this story and had no comment, while the other likely bidders' spokespersons could not be immediately reached.
The Bills had no immediate comment.
QMI Agency confirmed in April that Bon Jovi and Tanenbaum intend to lead a Toronto bid group, and QMI Agency was first to report last month that Golisano -- the billionaire from Rochester, N.Y., who owned the NHL's Buffalo Sabres from 2003 to 2011 -- intends to bid.
Golisano sold the Sabres to Pegula. Of the Western New York billionaires, Pegula probably is in the best financial position to buy the Bills.
The sale price likely will be in the neighbourhood of $1 billion and by NFL rules only up to $200 million of whatever the final amount might be can be borrowed. The rest must be paid in cash. What's more, a source told QMI Agency last month that the NFL strongly prefers that any principal prospective owner be financially liquid to the extent of possessing at least $200 million in available cash over and above his or her portion of the sale price.
According to the Buffalo News last week, Pegula recently sold natural gas lands in West Virginia and Ohio worth $1.75 billion.
Trump is as liquid as any bidder, according to his right-hand man.
"Donald Trump continues to remain interested in exploring the opportunity to acquire the Buffalo Bills," Michael Cohen, executive vice-president and special counsel to Trump, said in a telephone interview on Thursday afternoon.
"Financially he is more than capable of buying the team on his own; whether he does, or elects to syndicate, is something he will decide at a later date."
Cohen had no further comment.
QMI Agency also has learned that Morgan Stanley will vet potential bidders before the NFL does.
That will come as a surprise to some, but sports franchise relocation expert Marc Ganis told QMI Agency last month that both Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose are so experienced in this realm, and have worked so often with the league on recent sales, that "they know what the NFL accepts and what it doesn't."
Founding Bills owner Ralph Wilson died in late March at age 95. His primary heir and widow, Mary Wilson, soon announced that -- as long expected -- she would sell the team.
According to WBBZ-TV in Buffalo, the four publicly unnamed trustees of Ralph Wilson's estate are his widow Mary, his niece and Bills executive-VP Mary Owen, Bills CFO Jeff Littmann and Detroit lawyer Eugene Driker.