Though Terry and Kim Pegula said nothing particularly newsworthy Friday in announcing they are “following” the sale of the Buffalo Bills, they nevertheless find themselves in headlines around the nation today.
In the intense atmosphere surrounding the football team since the March 25 death of long time owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., even such a “non-statement” by the Buffalo Sabres owners generates media speculation. By even acknowledging their interest in the Bills’ future, the billionaire power couple behind a good share of the construction boom on the Buffalo waterfront have officially thrust themselves into the forefront of speculation about who will eventually occupy the owner’s box at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“Like everyone else in this community, they have a strong desire to have the Buffalo Bills remain a centerpiece of this region,” said Michael Gilbert, vice president of public and community relations for the Sabres. “Accordingly, they have been following the developments involving the sale of the Bills.
“However, out of respect for the process being conducted by representatives of the Wilson estate and the Bills, they will not be making any additional comments about the sale process,” he added.
Gilbert also buttressed the Pegulas’ position in the scrum of potential owners by noting the significant investments they already have made in area sports teams as well as Buffalo bricks and mortar.
“Terry and Kim Pegula have a deep commitment to Buffalo and Western New York,” he said. “Their ownership of the Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans and the construction of HarborCenter are evidence of that fact,”
The HarborCenter project rising at the foot of Main Street represents a $172 million investment by the Pegulas in a facility to serve as a hockey center, hotel and parking garage.
It was all enough to underscore a slew of unofficial accounts linking the Sabres owners to a potential Bills purchase, especially after Terry Pegula’s natural-gas company, East Resources, recently sold $1.75 billion worth of drilling acreage in West Virginia and Ohio. The added liquidity is seen as helping Pegula acquire the Bills, although a source with knowledge of the land deal previously claimed the deal was planned before Wilson’s death.
Reports also have indicated the Pegulas are among those who have received nondisclosure agreements and teaser documents sent to potential bidders for their review. The materials are in advance of the more detailed sales book that bidders will use to evaluate the team’s assets and debts.
A source familiar with the process told The Buffalo News the sales book is in the final drafting stage and should be available within a week to 10 days. A loose target for the sales book’s release has been right before the July 4 weekend.
Others seen as potential buyers include B. Thomas Golisano, the former Sabres owner; Donald J. Trump, the Manhattan real estate mogul; rocker Jon Bon Jovi in conjunction with Toronto sports magnate Larry Tannenbaum; beverage magnate C. Dean Metropoulos; and others.
The Pegulas’ interest in the team also follows reports in The News indicating the Jacobs family, which controls Delaware North Cos., also is exploring opportunities surrounding any new stadium the Bills may require in future years. Delaware North already maintains a business relationship with Pegula’s Sabres as concession manager for the First Niagara Center.