The Buffalo Bills are going to be sold, this much is fact. However, the question of who the buyer will be is unknown. Tim Graham of the Buffalo News recently wrote about how a new owner could be confirmed by the end of this year, if not by the start of the league year next March. But with all of the showboating being done by Donald Trump, amongst other potential buyers, the list of prospective buyers grows by the week; this is not a good thing.
Right now the greatest enemy of keeping the Bills in Buffalo is time. What any extended time will allow is for parties, ones that are not known currently, to make preparations for a bid. These possible owners could include businessmen not looking to own the “Bills,” but instead to own an NFL team and make as much money off it as possible. Making the most money out of the product would likely include the relocation of the team, which also happens to have an expiration date that draws closer every day the Bills are on the market.
Another wrinkle is that Buffalo’s controlling owner, Mary Wilson, hasn’t named an investment bank to handle the sale. Thus, the official “for sale” sign can’t be hung yet. Until that key ingredient is in place, the bidding and negotiating process gets delayed. This delay would increase the likelihood of an unknown bidder to come forth.
From there it comes down to the relocation buyout in the lease agreement between the Bills and Erie County. Right now that clause is the biggest deterrent for any owner looking to move the team. It means that the owner will have to sit for another six years until he can shift the team to a location of his choosing. For a person looking to cash in as much as he can off the team, having to wait six years for the extra potential income could be bothersome. No owner is going to want to wait that long, especially one that intends on moving the franchise. So if it takes a year for the bidding, approval and eventual purchase to be put in place, it means one less year they have to wait to move.
With that said, a quick sale is a great sign for Bills fans as any potential owner would have to declare his intentions early on. The NFL would not approve an owner without clearly stating their intentions on how they plan to run the organization, including if they would relocate or keep the Bills in Buffalo.
One more large piece of the puzzle is the state and local government. If a new owner is in place early, again sometime in the 2014 season, it will allow our politicians to jump into the fray early to best secure the franchise. Part of this is being done now as the appointed Bills Stadium Work Group has met once already, and should have a number of options within the next three years.
If a new owner is in place by the end of this season, then this committee would have the necessary time to present a number of options, as well as find the funding and legal-government backed loopholes to secure the future of the Bills in Buffalo.
So as the season creeps closer to beginning, it will be important to see if the Bills and the NFL finally make a move to name a new owner. If no new owner is named by the end of the season, then Bills fans should be on red alert.
A key date to watch for some type of announcement could be the Hall of Fame game if things move quickly. With the Bills playing in the first preseason game and Andre Reed going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the league could cement the franchise in Buffalo with great fanfare if an owner willing to keep the team in the only home it’s known is declared.