Rocker Jon Bon Jovi said Wednesday in an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" that he would not have moved the Buffalo Bills if his bid to purchase the team in 2014 had been successful.
Bon Jovi also confirmed that Donald Trump, who was in the running for the team, organized a smear campaign against Bon Jovi's group to try to bring down the asking price. That story was first revealed on News reporter Tim Graham's radio show in March and later publicized again by GQ.
"People don't realize, I was really going to get a house [in Western New York], I was going to move there; I was really, seriously, changing my life," Bon Jovi told Stern, while reiterating that owning the team wasn't a vanity project for him. He said he was "crushed" and "brokenhearted" after losing the bid.
Bon Jovi's claim of keeping the team in Buffalo was met with some skepticism locally, due to the fact that he was partnered with a Toronto-based group that included Larry Tanenbaum of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Edward Rogers of Rogers Communications.
The group's initial bid was rejected because it was "deemed financially insufficient and didn't include enough assurances about the Bills' long-term future in Western New York," the News reported at the time. Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly spoke with Bon Jovi about joining his ownership group later in the process, but backed out "over lingering concerns the team could move."
Terry Pegula's winning bid of $1.4 billion blew away the other offers. The Bon Jovi group's resubmitted bid was for $1.05 billion, though a source told the News the group "could have gone higher but felt that amount matched the team’s value." Trump later claimed he bid $1 billion, and sent off angry tweets after not winning the bid.
Even though I refused to pay a ridiculous price for the Buffalo Bills, I would have produced a winner. Now that won’t happen.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2014
Pegula's daughter Kelly tweeted that her dad joked he was "broke" after buying the team, despite having a net worth of $3.3 billion at the time. The tweet was later deleted.
Bon Jovi brought up the Bills sale Wednesday when Stern asked him about reportedly being smeared by Trump.
"It's true," Bon Jovi said. "It got so bad that they stopped playing us on the radio up there."
Michael Caputo, a longtime Republican political strategist who handled New York communications for the Trump campaign, said on "The Tim Graham Show" last March that while the Bills were for sale, Trump instructed him to "popularize that concept – that if you sell to Jon Bon Jovi, this is going to Toronto, no matter what they say."
Caputo added that they "put together a fan group called Bills Fan Thunder (the group was originally called 12th Man Thunder), at his behest, to actually, you know, get the word out there that Jon Bon Jovi was a Trojan horse."
Bon Jovi said the tactic represented Trump's "evil genius."
"People say, 'Haha' – I go, 'No, it's genius what he did, because he was taking out a serious candidate to buy the team and then hoped that he would get it at a bargain price," Bon Jovi told Stern. "But we were as real as real got [about buying the team]. I'm brokenhearted because I would've loved it and what we would've done in Western New York. And people don't realize, I was really gonna get a house there, I was going to move there, I was really, seriously, changing my life."
Stern then said that Bon Jovi had told him privately during the sale process that he was "all in" and would move to Buffalo, and that he didn't want to move the team.
"We had a great plan for it, and the partners would've made it a unique situation," Bon Jovi said. "Look, I think the guy that got it is doing a very good job. But we, yeah – I was crushed."
The Bills played an ill-fated series of games in Toronto's Rogers Centre from 2008-13 but failed to drum up local support. The Bills terminated the series early.