Bon Jovi, MLSE livin’ on a prayer if they envision the “Toronto Bills’ before 2020

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If rocker Jon Bon Jovi ever does wind up leading a group including MLSE that buys the Buffalo Bills, the franchise couldn’t relocate to Toronto before 2020.

At least not without coughing up another $400 million. To shoot the entire price tag over $2 billion.

Talk about living on a prayer.

It would cost $400 million to buy the Bills out of their new 10-year lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

CBS Sports on Sunday morning broke the news that Bon Jovi, frontman for the rockband that bears his surname, is “consumed” with becoming an NFL owner, and that he “is among the parties positioning to purchase the Buffalo Bills when the team comes up for sale.”

Ralph C. Wilson Jr., the team’s owner since its founding as an original AFL club in 1959, is 95. He lives in the Detroit area and has not attended a Bills game this year or last, as he is not well enough to do so.

After 53 years, Wilson turned over the day-to-day running of the club to team executive Russ Brandon this past New Year’s Day.

Wilson’s family, which includes two surviving daughters, has said they will put the club up for sale after Ralph’s death.

Canadian reports later on Sunday said Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment — the Toronto company that owns the NHL’s Maple Leafs, NBA’s Raptors and the Air Canada Centre, among other properties — is in league with Bon Jovi in his bid to buy the Bills.

Tim Leiweke, CEO of MLSE, confirmed as much in an interview with the Toronto Star.

“Jon and I are very good friends,” Leiweke told the Star. “We talk weekly about his NFL ambitions. And so we’re actively engaged, but I think it’s still a work in progress.”

Indeed, buying the team might prove difficult enough.

Corporations cannot own NFL teams. An individual must be principal owner, and personally must put up at least 30% of the purchase money.

That rule would prevent MLSE — or any other interested U.S. or Canadian corporation, such as Rogers Media — from buying the team.

Years ago, the late Ted Rogers — founder and CEO of the Canadian cable and media empire that still bears his name — indicated a desire to bring an NFL team to Toronto. He settled on the “Bills-in-Toronto” series, which he arranged before his death.

The Bills likely are worth somewhere between $750 million and $1 billion.

The National Post on Sunday night reported Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of MLSE, is involved with Bon Jovi’s big group. Tanenbaum presumably would personally help to finance a bid.

Their group would have competition.

Jim Kelly, the team’s star quarterback in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is said to be involved with a local group intent on buying the franchise and keeping it in Buffalo.

As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a native of Western New York, a local group presumably would be given every chance to keep the team in Buffalo.

Bon Jovi’s personal net worth is about $300 million, according to a posting at Forbes.com. He’d have to sink a huge chunk of his fortune into the endeavour, at least if he wanted to become principal owner.

BILLSEven if the Bon Jovi/MLSE group were to purchase the Bills after Wilson’s death, they’d almost certainly keep the club based in Buffalo through this decade, because of the lease deal.

The Bills signed their reworked lease of Ralph Wilson Stadium last December with Erie County and the state of New York. In exchange for $130 million in stadium upgrades, the county and state insisted on a penalty for breaking the lease before its expiry after the 2022 season — $400 million worth.

There’s an asterisk, however. The club can relocate the team in a brief, one-time window following Year 7 of the lease — that is, after the 2019 season — for only a $29-million penalty.

But where would the “Toronto Bills” even play?

The Rogers Centre would not suffice. Its capacity is too small to be a team’s primary stadium, per NFL constitution and bylaws. Barring a massive overhaul of the Rogers Centre, a new stadium would have to be built. So add another $1 billion to the price tag, basically.

Mind-boggling finances, mind-boggling obstacles.

RogersAs it is, the Bills since 2008 have played one of their eight regular-season home games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

As it happens, this year’s “Bills-in-Toronto” game will be played this coming Sunday, at 4 p.m. EST, against the nose-diving, 2-9 Atlanta Falcons.

The Bills, at 4-7, are still in the hunt for the second AFC wildcard playoff berth, along with eight other teams that have either a 5-6 or 4-7 record.

The Beach Boys are performing at halftime. God only knows if Bon Jovi might follow them several years from now.

One thought on “Bon Jovi, MLSE livin’ on a prayer if they envision the “Toronto Bills’ before 2020

  1. ALthepal

    Ridiculous scenario on every level. Mr. Bon Jovi will be elderly and TO will still be no closer to a No Fun League team. It is good for a laugh though at the expense of the Toronto sports media and local Proline lovin NFL “fans?”. The principle partners were barely able to afford the leafs and co. and that’s a $1.98 special compared to the overbloated nfl cost. How about a 2nd NHL team instead? I would think the Argos are safe for the next 1000 years.

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