Carmen Policy was a member of the NFL's finance committee for many years.
The former San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns executive has seen piles of confidential documents that revealed gargantuan dollar amounts.
Yet the $1.4 billion Terry and Kim Pegula spent on the Buffalo Bills gave Policy a jolt.
"I'm stunned," Policy said Thursday by phone from San Francisco. "I'm literally stunned.
"That's a lot of cash."
Mere moneybags aren't enough to buy an NFL club. The Buffalo News reached out to Policy to learn what will happen Wednesday, when the finance committee reviews Pegulas' big purchase.
Policy estimated he served on the finance committee for 10 ownership changes. He reviewed the purchases of three current finance committee members: chairman Bob McNair (Houston Texans), Robert Kraft (New England Patriots) and Jeff Lurie (Philadelphia Eagles).
Policy was the 49ers' top executive in the 1980s and 1990s, helping them win four Super Bowls. The Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly named him executive of the year in 1994.
When the Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999, owner Al Lerner hired Policy as president and CEO.
Policy explained for The News what the finance committee wants to learn from a prospective owner and the red flags that can kill the sale.
"This is not a perfunctory meeting," Policy said. "This is an important meeting for the new potential owners. The other owners take the recommendation of the finance committee very, very serious."
The finance committee reviews each pending purchase and, with assistance from with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's staff, makes the recommendation for the other 31 owners to vote on.
If all goes well Wednesday, then the final vote to transfer the Bills will happen at the NFL's annual fall meeting Oct. 7 and 8 in Manhattan.
Policy said that as long as he served on the finance committee, the owners approved every recommendation.
"We would review at least summaries of the deal," said Policy, who retired from the NFL in 2004. "We wouldn't review the documents as lawyers would. But we would explore a variety of issues."
Some bullet points to discuss:
- Price of the team
- How it's being financed
- Where the financing comes from
- What the business structure looks like
- Who will have control
- Potential financing problems that could cause a change in control
Policy explained these committee meetings used to include serious vetting. But around the time Goodell took over in September 2006, there was a movement to scrutinize new owners much earlier in the process.
"We used to set the standards," Policy said. "They've streamlined the standards to where they must be met even before it's submitted to the finance committee.
"Roger Goodell refined the process so that people didn't waste their time and money."
The league wanted to avoid embarrassments like in 1999, when developer Howard Milstein tried to buy Washington, but the finance committee discovered all but $50 million of his then-record $800 million bid would be borrowed.
Milstein withdrew his offer before the NFL rejected it. The NFL refunded his $30 million deposit in exchange for a promise that he would not sue the league.
Satisfactory financials are only a fraction of what the NFL seeks in a new owner.
A red flag would be raised, Policy noted, if the prospective buyer experienced problems getting along with others or failed to meet professional obligations.
"You are conducting business here that has 32 partners and is very public and very complicated," Policy said. "The last thing you want is somebody who's messing it up either for their own agenda or they don't understand the concept of being a team player."
There wouldn't seem to be any such concerns with the Pegulas.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, might've had some issues when it came to questions about being a good teammate.
Trump was the USFL's most influential owner and was considered the driving force behind the $1.7 billion antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.
"Well, in my day I think Donald Trump would not have been invited out to dinner by our group after the meeting," Policy said. "Maybe times have changed. But we'd have said, 'Thank you for coming, Mr. Trump,' and we'd have gone our ways."