The Jacobs family will not pursue an ownership interest in the Buffalo Bills, but is looking at operating and owning at least part of a new stadium for the team, The Buffalo News has learned.
Owning the team would all but certainly force Delaware North, the Jacobs family’s privately held company, to divest its far-flung gambling interests – one of the firm’s core components.
The Jacobs family’s decision to not pursue purchasing the team was confirmed by six sources in government and the private sector with knowledge of Delaware North’s plans. The company has been holding regular discussions with members of the Cuomo administration in recent weeks, several sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“For them, it’s about what this would bring to their core business,” said one of the sources. “They see this in terms of a facility they could run and manage.
“They sell you hot dogs,” the source added. “They don’t want to worry about putting fannies in the seats or making sure they sign the best right guard.”
Delaware North executives would not comment other than to reiterate what the company said earlier this spring.
“We are using our resources, our contacts, our relationships to do everything we can to ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo,” spokesman Glen White said.
Among the ideas Delaware North is pursuing is a plan for it to own and build a new stadium, possibly with other investors, as well as to run its concession operations, which the company has long experience doing around the world.
The firm’s new focus on a football facility follows the Friday revelation by The News that Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula has reorganized his personal business empire in a way that could pave the way for acquiring the team. The move is seen as reflecting what one source called “real” interest.
Delaware North, meanwhile, already maintains business ties with Pegula and his Sabres as the food and beverage vendor at First Niagara Center.
Sources say the Jacobs family looked at the possibility of bidding on the Bills, which could be up for sale as early as this summer, depending on the timetable determined by the trust running the sale following the March death of longtime team owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. But it became clear that the company’s interests in gambling, as well as company Chairman Jeremy Jacobs Sr.’s ownership of the Boston Bruins, made such a transaction too complex and, in the end, unlikely to get by the NFL owners, who have to approve the team’s sale.
Before the team is put up for sale, an investment bank working for the trust must complete an inventory of all the team’s assets and liabilities that can provide a potential value of the Bills for bidders to use in the upcoming sales process. It is expected bidders, who must be vetted by the NFL in order to be a part of the process, will receive the financial information about the Bills in early July.
Because of the league’s rules, Delaware North would all but certainly be forced to divest itself of its gambling operations. That would gut a major component of one of the nation’s largest privately held companies.
The company has various hospitality and food service interests, owning or running hotels, concession operations at airports to parks and owns the TD Garden in Boston, home to the Bruins and Boston Celtics.
The company also has sizable gambling interests. It owns Finger Lakes Racetrack and its adjoining casino located southeast of Rochester, and runs the casino at the Hamburg fairgrounds. It is also pursuing a deal to operate a future casino to be run by Suffolk County Off-Track Betting Corp.
Delaware North, which employs 55,000 people, will be moving into a new headquarters building in Buffalo next year. Outside New York, it runs or at least partly owns casino or racetrack operations in Illinois, Arkansas, West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Oklahoma, as well as the off-track betting network in Arizona.
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