Sources: Jeffrey Gundlach is exploring Bills purchase, has approached Jim Kelly - The Buffalo News

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Sources: Jeffrey Gundlach is exploring Bills purchase, has approached Jim Kelly

Three years ago, prominent bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach expressed interest in purchasing the Buffalo Bills to ensure they remain in Western New York.

But then the Amherst High grad went through an ugly courtroom divorce with his previous employer and testified he was worth $90 million, not nearly enough to pursue an NFL franchise.

Hold on, though.

Gundlach is worth way more than that today, and two sources tell The Buffalo News he still wants to buy the Bills.

One source familiar with the sales process and another in the banking industry say Gundlach not only is exploring a purchase, but also has approached Bills legend Jim Kelly about forming a group.

Gundlach is chief executive officer and chief investment officer of DoubleLine Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment firm that manages $50 billion in assets. Gundlach is DoubleLine's largest shareholder.

A DoubleLine spokesman this afternoon declined to comment on Gundlach's interest in the Bills.

Only two other prospective buyers, former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano and developer Donald Trump, have publicly declared their interest in buying the Bills. The Buffalo News first reported Sabres owner Terry Pegula has hired highly respected team broker Steve Greenberg to explore the possibility.

Bills fans shouldn't be concerned Gundlach does business in Los Angeles. He wouldn't move the Bills there.

Gundlach has stated his desire to keep the Bills here. His interest first was noted by the Wall Street Journal in May 2011.

"One of these days, maybe five years from now -- I hope it's 20 years from now -- the Bills will have to have an ownership change," Gundlach said in a followup interview with Channel 7.

"I think it would be a tragedy to have the Bills go to some random city and be called, you know, the L.A. Multitude or whatever the hell they'd call it. I want them to be the Buffalo Bills. I want Buffalo to receive a championship one of these days."

Gundlach hasn't commented about the Bills since.

Gundlach, 54, is an investment superstar. In 2011, a Barron's magazine cover story called him the "King of Bonds" and Institutional Investor magazine named Gundlach its "Money Manager of the Year."

Investment-analysis firm Morningstar nominated Gundlach "Fixed Income Manager of the Decade" in 2009, shortly before he left the powerhouse TCW Group Inc.

Two years later, Gundlach and TCW went to court over his departure. TCW claimed he was fired for planning to bolt the company along with key staff members and proprietary data to start a competing business. Gundlach alleged TCW wrongfully terminated him to avoid paying a gargantuan bonus.

A jury delivered mixed verdicts against both parties, but awarded TCW no monetary damages and determined TCW owed Gundlach and three co-defendants $66.7 million in unpaid wages. The parties negotiated a confidential settlement.

Ten days after Gundlach was fired, he co-founded DoubleLine. Mutual-fund research group Strategic Insight noted DoubleLine was the fastest-growing startup in industry history.

Gundlach testified in 2011 he was worth about $90 million, much of it tied up in fine art. With DoubleLine soaring, his net worth has been estimated close to $1 billion now.

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