Bon Jovi remains ‘passionate’ about becoming NFL owner, and source says he remains part of Toronto group expected to bid for Buffalo Bills

BON

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Jon Bon Jovi indeed wants to become an NFL owner, and it’s true he’s part a Toronto group expected to bid for the Buffalo Bills, Sun Media has learned.

On Thursday, the personal publicist for Jon Bon Jovi confirmed that the Livin’ on a Prayer singer is a player.

“Jon remains passionate in his pursuit of an NFL franchise,” publicist Ken Sunshine told Sun Media via e-mail.

Sunshine would not elaborate, nor comment on reports linking Bon Jovi to any group bidding on the Bills, based in Toronto or elsewhere.

But a Toronto source in the position to know, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Sun Media that reports from last November, echoed Thursday morning by Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei, remain accurate. That Bon Jovi is the face of a Toronto-based group intent on obtaining an NFL franchise, via relocation, and expected to bid for the Bills.

Bon Jovi hails from New Jersey.

With a metropolitan population of more than six million, Toronto is North America’s second largest market without an NFL team, after Los Angeles.

The source said the top executive of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, chairman Larry Tanenbaum, remains in league with Bon Jovi.

MLSEMLSE is the Toronto sports powerhouse that owns that city’s NHL and NBA teams (Maple Leafs and Raptors) and the arena they play in (Air Canada Centre), as well as the city’s MLS team (Toronto FC) and AHL team (Marlies).

Tim Leiweke, CEO of MLSE, told the Toronto Star last November — after an initial report from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora — that Bon Jovi was part of a Toronto bid group seeking an NFL team, with MLSE’s backing.

“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.”

Founding Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. was still alive at that time. But Wilson died two weeks ago, and the Bills last week confirmed the long-held belief that Wilson’s survivors will sell the team.

Sunshine, Bon Jovi’s publicist, last November told Associated Press’ sports correspondent in Buffalo, John Wawrow, that his client was not pursuing the Bills at that time.

“The Bills are not for sale, and (Bon Jovi) has too much respect for Mr. Wilson to engage in any discussions of buying the team,” Sunshine told Wawrow.

Bon Jovi has “a day job that’s doing very well,” Sunshine said, in regard to the Hall of Fame rock band that bears his client’s surname.

“It’s preposterous to say he’s had any discussions with the Bills and Erie County.”

Upon being reached by Sun Media at that time, Sunshine said he was quoted accurately by Wawrow and would not expand on his comments, meant as anti-inflammatory to counter wild public speculation about future Bills ownership while Wilson remained alive.

Bon Jovi, 52, long has been “consumed,” as La Canfora phrased it last November, with becoming an NFL owner. Or at least part owner.

He is a friend not only of two of the NFL’s most influential owners — New England’s Robert Kraft and Dallas’ Jerry Jones — but also of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a native of Western New York.

The finances of Bon Jovi’s bid group bears attention.

The rocker’s personal net worth is about $300 million, according to Forbes.com.

By NFL rules, the controlling-stake threshold for NFL ownership is 30%. So if the Bills price tag winds up in the neighbourhood of $1 billion, the singer presumably would have to sell almost everything he owns to come up that kind of cash. Thus, while Bon Jovi might become the frontman of this Toronto bid group, unless Forbes is mistaken about his net worth it’s hard to see how he could become controlling owner.

An important point: no potential NFL owner or ownership group may borrow more than $200 million to complete the sales transaction. So if the price tag winds up at a billion bucks, a bid group has to plunk down $800 million in cash.

Tanenbaum’s net worth in November was listed at $1.18 billion by Canadian Business magazine. Presumably he would have the cash to be principal owner, but that intention is not known. In any event, other deep-pocketed Canadians would need to contribute to the bid group, or perhaps even lead it.

Previous reports said a contributor might be Edward Rogers III, son of the late Ted Rogers, founder of the Rogers Communications cable, telecommunications, media and sports empire. Canadian Business pegs the net worth of the “Rogers family” at $7.6 billion.

MLSE or Rogers Communications cannot buy the Bills, as NFL rules prohibit corporate ownership.

The Bills’ current lease, as I reported two weeks ago, virtually prevents any new owner from relocating the team through 2022, with the exception of a brief window in 2020 that carries a $28.4-million penalty.

The still-reported $400-million “relocation penalty” to get out of the lease before that window (or after the window, through the 2022 season) is a misnomer.

To use a prison analogy, the new owner cannot merely pay $400 million in bail and bolt Buffalo. That huge sum of money would only come into play if the new owner busts out of jail and somehow gets his lawyers to convince a judge that the breakout was legal. In that unlikely event, to complete the analogy the lease calls for the freed owner(s) to pay $400 million as a penalty for such an incredulous court victory — a last-ditch “liquidated damages” clause, in legal parlance.

So the Bills aren’t going anywhere until at least 2020.

RogersBut where would the “Toronto Bills” even play? The Rogers Centre would not suffice. Its capacity, now under 50,000, is too small to be a team’s primary stadium, per NFL constitution and bylaws. Barring a massive overhaul of the downtown dome, a new stadium would have to be built.

As there would be little likelihood of any municipal, provincial or federal financing to help pay for a new stadium, the Toronto Bills presumably would pay for construction mostly with seat-licence fees. And you thought Bills-in-Toronto tickets cost a lot.

As for the “Bills-in-Toronto” series, it’s on hold for 2014, after six years of diminishing interest and benefit to all parties involved: the Bills, Rogers Media Inc., the Rogers Centre, Bills fans, the Bills team itself and NFL fans in Toronto.

Whether the Bills-in-Toronto series can morph into the Bills-in-Toronto franchise at some point early next decade remains to be seen.

At this point, perhaps not even the Wilson family nor NFL higher-ups knows if Bon Jovi’s bid group’s chances of buying the Bills are worse than, equal to or better than a prayer.

 

2 thoughts on “Bon Jovi remains ‘passionate’ about becoming NFL owner, and source says he remains part of Toronto group expected to bid for Buffalo Bills

  1. lp

    “Bon Jovi has “a day job that’s doing very well,” Sunshine said, in regard to the Hall of Fame rock band that bears his client’s surname.”

    Bon Jovi is NOT in the R&R hall of fame.

  2. Laurie Weston

    Population means zip in a NFL fueled by TV contracts. Philly, Phoenix, San Diego are under 1.5 million, Dallas, San Diego Indianapolis, Baltimore are under 1 million while Oakland, Minneapolis, Miami,Buffalo and Cincinnati are under 500,000. Never mind Green Bay is about the size of Brandon, Manitoba. Toronto has no stadium and no history of supporting live football at all levels like the USA towns and cities. Bottom line there is no business case for a NFL in TO. NFL already has TV contracts which cover Canada. Let us give this a rest.

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