A report out of New York late Friday night claimed rocker Jon Bon Jovi has been kicked out of the Toronto group trying to buy the Buffalo Bills.
While it might well be true the bid group has splintered, or that some or all of its three principals — Bon Jovi, MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers (representing his family) — have packed it in, it is highly unlikely that the latter two booted out Bon Jovi, as the New York Post alleges.
Multiple sources for months have told Sun Media that Bon Jovi has run, navigated and overseen every decision at every step of the process within the Toronto bid group — from the get-go. The Post’s report would be akin to Bon Jovi leaving the rock group he formed, and which bears his name, but someone reporting he got booted out of it. Uh, no.
It would be no surprise if Bon Jovi has quit the group. If true, however, sources close to the Toronto group were unaware of it late Friday night. One source severely doubted the report.
Yet Sun Media reported exclusively last week that Bon Jovi and his deep-pocketed Toronto backers were reassessing whether even to continue in their pursuit of the NFL team.
Their bid has been on the rocks for weeks, and no one within the group is optimistic they’ll wind up buying the NFL team, according to two sources in the position to know.
The group cancelled a scheduled tour of Ralph Wilson Stadium a week ago Wednesday.
“They’re hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” one source said. “The bid’s on life support.”
It has nothing to do with the announced departure of CEO Tim Leiweke from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, whose role in the bid has been overstated (most often by Leiweke himself).
But it has everything to do with (1) the group’s limited bidding power with Bon Jovi in the lead, and (2) lingering doubts about whether the trust would sell the club to a group that continues to refuse to commit to keeping the Bills in Western New York long-term.
The Post suggested Rogers and Tanenbaum would proceed themselves and submit a binding, definitive bid for the Bills.
One Sun Media source reached late Friday strongly doubted that. Another said that Tanenbaum might also pull out if it’s true that Bon Jovi has backed out, but that Rogers might try to remain alive as a similar, large-chunk background investor in another bid for the Bills.
Rogers had about a 35% stake in Bon Jovi’s group.
While Tanenbaum could front a bid for the Bills himself — he too already was into the Bon Jovi/Tanenbaum/Rogers group for about 35%, and the NFL’s principal-ownership threshold is 30% — he likely could not backfill 60% or 70% of a bid fronted by the Rogers family.
And whether Edward Rogers and his family could even front a bid raises questions, because of the complicated nature of how the family’s reported $7-billion fortune is run.
Edward — the deputy chairman of Rogers Communications Inc. — alone does not control that fortune. Nor does even he, his mother and his sisters together. Rather, a trust does — which includes not only those Rogers family members but others.
What’s more, one Sun Media source has insisted since early July that if Bon Jovi ever left the Toronto group, the issue of relocation would become even more acute if only Tanenbaum and Rogers were left. That’s because at least Bon Jovi was not from Toronto. Both Tanenbaum and Rogers, of course, are. And both were actively involved in plans, however preliminary, to relocate the Bills to Toronto at first opportunity — until their bid group changed course in June.
There are three other known finalist bidders for the Bills: multi-billionaires Terry Pegula, Donald Trump and Tom Golisano.
Sun Media reported last Friday that definitive, binding bids are due Sept. 9. And in order to get on the agenda for owners to approve a presumptive new owner at their October meeting, the NFL’s finance committee would have to review and approve the sale at its next meeting, which Sun Media has reported to be on Sept. 17.