In addition to selling off lucrative assets, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula has been busy reorganizing his business holdings and subsidiaries.
Many believe these moves are further evidence the billionaire will make a run at buying the Buffalo Bills.
Pegula’s entry into the field of prospective owners comes on the heels of reports of interest from billionaire food and beverage magnate C. Dean Metropoulos, the man who owns Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and who resurrected the Twinkie.
Sources have told The Buffalo News that Pegula’s wife, Kim, has taken a more active role in running their various companies, including Pegula Sports and Entertainment, and they recently reassigned Sabres employees to the fledgling sports-management group.
WGRZ Channel 2, citing three unnamed sources, reported Thursday that Terry Pegula has “high interest” in acquiring the Bills.
“The interest is real,” a source with knowledge of the Bills sale told The Buffalo News on condition of anonymity.
Pegula’s natural-gas company, East Resources, was involved Monday in the $1.75 billion sale of drilling acreage in West Virginia and Ohio.
The added liquidity would help Pegula acquire the Bills, although a source with knowledge of the land deal claimed it had been in the works since before Bills founder Ralph C. Wilson Jr. died in March.
The Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars sold two years ago for $1.05 billion and $760 million, respectively. The Miami Dolphins went for $1.1 billion in 2009.
The Pegulas recently began streamlining their operations, multiple sources told The News.
The family created Pegula Sports and Entertainment to pull subsidiary properties under one umbrella. The group was created several months ago but hadn’t been staffed until recently.
Pegula Sports and Entertainment oversees the Sabres, HarborCenter, First Niagara Center, the Rochester Americans, the Buffalo Bandits, Black River Entertainment and Black River Publishing (a country music record label and publishing company based in Nashville), Five Star Athletes Management (an NFL player representation agency in Atlanta) and Impact Sports Performance (a fitness company in Boca Raton, Fla.).
Pegula sold most of East Resources holdings to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion in cash four years ago. He bought the Sabres from Tom Golisano in 2011 for $189 million.
Metropoulos, who lost a bid to purchase the Jacksonville Jaguars three years ago, will take a look at the Bills when the team’s financial advisers produce their sales book.
Metropoulos sold Pinnacle Food for $2.2 billion in 2007 and Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee Tuna (as part of International Home Foods) for $2.9 billion in 2000.
News Sports Reporter John Vogl and Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious contributed to this report.